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Democrats Facing Increasing Pressure To Override “Tamale Bill” Veto

April 25, 2023

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizona legislative Democrats are facing increasing pressure over Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs’ shocking decision to veto an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill – and an upcoming vote this week to override that veto in both chambers.

On Sunday, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) wrote a letter to Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma, announcing their support for HB 2509 and for legislators’ “efforts to override the Governor’s veto.”

Last week, Governor Hobbs vetoed HB 2509, sponsored by Representative Travis Grantham, which deals with the sale and food preparation of cottage food – and now known as the Tamale Bill.

In her veto letter to the Arizona Legislature, Hobbs explained the reasoning behind her decision, writing, “This bill would significantly increase the risk of food-borne illness by expanding the ability of cottage food vendors to sell high-risk foods. It fails to establish sufficient minimum standards for inspection or certification of home-based food businesses, and could limit the ability of ADHS to investigate food-borne disease outbreaks. Nor does it provide a strong enough mechanism to ensure home kitchens are free of hazardous chemicals, rodent or insect infestation, or that equipment and storage of temperature-sensitive foods are adequate.”

Hobbs’ veto immediately drew bipartisan outrage, and legislative leaders plotted the path forward for veto overrides for this proposal. HB 2509 garnered 52 votes when it first passed the Arizona House, and 26 votes in the Senate – which amended the bill and sent it back to the House. The bill then obtained final clearance from the House with 45 votes before being transmitted to the Governor’s Office.

In her letter to the Arizona Legislature, NHCSL President Nellie Pou wrote, “For many Hispanic populations, selling homemade food is a family tradition passed down from generation to generation. Many low-income Americans need it to supplement their income in the face of disparities. It is a way to break the cycle of poverty. Today’s homemade food producers are tomorrow’s restaurant or nationwide prepared foods business owners….In Arizona this is especially important due to the significant Hispanic population and even more important to those who qualify under DACA or asylum seekers who have limited options when it comes to work.”

The NHCSL President did not hold back on Hobbs’ veto of this bill, saying, “By signing this bill, the Governor had an opportunity to support the Hispanic community and personal freedom that should be accessible to everyone. Our community should not fear legal repercussions for selling their homemade foods and we urge Arizona Legislators to do what is right and override her veto.”

As of now, it does not appear like the Legislature has enough votes to override the Governor’s veto on HB 2509. Even after providing a significant number of votes in both the House and Senate to send this legislature to Hobbs’ desk in the first place, Democrats have been reticent to sign on to the attempts to reverse the governor’s decision. Last week, the Senate Democratic Caucus issued a joint statement from its leadership team, announcing that “Senate Democrats will not be providing the required votes needed to override Governor Hobbs’ veto of HB 2509.”

The Senate Democratic leadership team added, “The bill, which we recognize has some benefits, also has some concerns brought forward by health advocates after the final vote. Our promise to Arizona is that we work to enact the best policy to protect consumers and sellers. As a Caucus, we stand ready to work with stakeholders to craft a bill, which could still be considered this session if Republican Leadership demonstrated that it is serious about addressing this issue. We were elected to solve the problems that are facing Arizonans daily, not to engage in political power struggles. It is our duty to serve the people and ensure that their voices are heard, and we are committed to fulfilling this responsibility with the utmost sincerity and diligence.”

The change of heart from some Senate Democrats who previously voted for the bill has not been lost on other neutral observers. Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts wrote Monday that she doesn’t buy the statement released by the Senate Democrats’ leadership team, saying, “Senate Democrats’ change of heart on the tamale bill isn’t about protecting the people from imagined illness. It is all about protecting a governor from embarrassment.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

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