Tamale Bill Clears First Hurdle At Arizona Legislature

January 21, 2024

By Daniel Stefanski |

A surprisingly controversial bill from 2023 cleared its first hurdle this week at the Arizona Legislature.

On Wednesday, HB 2042 (“The Tamale Bill”), sponsored by Representative Travis Grantham, passed the House Regulatory Affairs Committee with a 6-0 vote. According to the overview from the Arizona House, this bill would “expand the foods that meet the exemption for cottage food products if requirements are met, and establish program guidelines and requirements.”

The Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) oversees the cottage food program. Its website states this program “allows individuals to make homemade products that are neither potentially hazardous nor Time or Temperature Control for Safety Foods, and offer them for commercial sale.” According to AZDHS, the law was amended twice – once in 2011 and another in 2018. The 2011 change “allow[ed] residents to produce non-potentially hazardous baked and confectionery products in their homes and offer them for commercial sale within the state.”

In a statement to AZ Free News, Grantham said, “I’m glad it passed committee unanimously and I hope the governor will sign it into law this time.”

Grantham’s reference to the governor’s future action harkens back to the 2023 legislative session, when Katie Hobbs vetoed the bill after overwhelmingly bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. In her April 18th veto letter to Speaker Ben Toma, Hobbs gave several reasons for her decision, including that the proposal “would significantly increase the risk of food-borne illness by expanding the ability of cottage food vendors to sell high-risk goods.” After the governor’s veto, the Arizona State Legislature attempted to override the action, but fell five votes short in the House of Representatives.

The President of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL), Nellie Pou, wrote a letter to Senate President Warren Petersen and Speaker Toma after Hobbs’ decision last year, supporting the “efforts to override the Governor’s veto.” Pou expressed disappointment in Hobbs’ veto, writing, “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.”

Democrat State Representative Alma Hernandez also made clear her disappointment over the spring 2023 veto. Hernandez said, “As a public health professional, I am VERY disappointed to see that a bipartisan bill allowing Arizonans to make an honest living by selling things like tamales, tortillas, and sweets legally was vetoed by Gov. Katie Hobbs. It makes no sense.”

After Senate Democrats released a statement to announce that they would not provide “the required votes needed to override” the governor’s veto of the bill, Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts took the legislators to task, 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.”

Hobbs may now get a second chance at “redemption” if the bill were to clear both chambers for the second year in a row. The 2024 version does include some changes in hopes that the Governor’s Office will be more receptive this time around.

Representatives from the Institute for Justice – AZ Chapter, Barry Goldwater Institute for Public Policy Research, Arizona Free Enterprise Club, Arizona Craft Producers, North Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and Americans for Prosperity – AZ, indicated their organizations’ support for The Tamale Bill as it commences another legislative journey. The Arizona Restaurant Association remains neutral on the proposal.

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

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