Hobbs Signs Popular Pet Vet Care Bill

Hobbs Signs Popular Pet Vet Care Bill

By Daniel Stefanski |

In the middle of a hectic week at the Arizona Legislature, Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs signed a wildly popular bill to increase veterinary care for pets.

On Tuesday, Governor Hobbs signed SB 1053, sponsored by Senator T.J. Shope, which “allows a veterinarian to use an audio-video communication medium to establish a veterinarian-client patient relationship and prescribe drugs subject to certain terms and conditions.”

Last week, after the bill cleared the Legislature, Shope wrote, “By now, you’ve heard me talk a lot about SB 1053, a bill I’ve sponsored that would allow veterinarians to utilize telemedicine to care for our pets. After this bill passed out of the House by a nearly unanimous vote, 57-1, it passed out of the Senate on Final Read this week with supermajority support and has been transmitted to the Governor’s desk. I, along with the Arizona Humane Society and many other pet owners, hope Governor Hobbs will do what’s best for our animals and sign this bill into law.”

Senator Shope and Co. got their wish with Hobbs’ signature. The Goldwater Institute had also been a huge proponent of the bill and cheered on the new law. Goldwater’s Director of Government Affairs, Jenna Bentley, tweeted, “A great day for pets in Arizona as SB 1053 is signed into law! This bill expands access to veterinary telemedicine services. Something that cannot happen soon enough for many animal owners, especially in rural areas of our state.”

The Goldwater Institute also posted an article from Mark Cushing, who is the Founder & CEO of the Animal Policy Group. Cushing praised the bill and explained why this proposal was sorely needed in the Grand Canyon State, writing, “A chronic shortage of veterinarians has created veterinary deserts throughout the United States. Pet owners of all ages don’t hesitate to seek veterinary advice and care, but such care is often available only through digital tools. Veterinary trade associations resist these changes, ignoring the key principle that telemedicine requires an informed choice by the veterinarian and pet owner to proceed without an in-person examination of the pet.”

Cushing also used the passage of Shope’s bill to encourage other states to follow in Arizona’s footsteps: “During the COVID pandemic, 19 states allowed pet owners to utilize telemedicine to initiate veterinary care with no reports of harm to pets. The Canadian province of Ontario, where 15 million people live, has enjoyed veterinary telemedicine for five years and also reported no complaints of injuries to pets. The Arizona Legislature looked at the lessons from these jurisdictions, considered the experience of human medicine, and made the right choice. The door is now open for more states to follow Arizona’s lead.”

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

Hobbs Signs Republican Budget Bill

Hobbs Signs Republican Budget Bill

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizonans who were under the impression that a Democrat governor in office would tip the scale in favor of more progressive policies are readjusting their expectations after the new state budget was signed into law.

On Friday, Governor Katie Hobbs signed the budget sent to her earlier in the week by the Republican-led Arizona Legislature. The $17.8 billion budget was approved in both the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support, though several Democrats refused to back the compromise.

Many observers thought that with Arizona’s divided government and with the political animosity between state Republicans and Democrats, this budget wouldn’t become a reality until June or later. Veteran communicator Barrett Marson tweeted, “A lot of people said it couldn’t be done. A lot of pundits (me included) said there’d be no budget deal until June/July. We were wrong. Governor Hobbs, President Petersen and Speaker Toma came together to craft a budget with broad bipartisan support. There’s a lot to like. Let’s celebrate.”

Though both sides received concessions in the budget, it appears that Republicans were the significant winners in the deal thanks to the shrewd negotiations employed by Petersen, Toma, and members of their staff. Both chiefs of staff, Josh Kredit (Senate) and Michael Hunter (House), have dealt with the state budget for a number of years and gave their bosses an extreme advantage when coming to terms with Arizona’s chief executive.

Petersen took a victory lap after the governor’s signature ended the budget saga for this fiscal year, stating, “We’re able to do this for our citizens, while also reducing government spending by $300 million. In fact, this is the first budget since 2017 where we have not added any new ongoing spending above formula increases. Additionally, Senate Republicans prevented the Governor and Democrat Legislators from advancing their extremist agenda. State-funded abortions and tuition-free college education for undocumented immigrants will not happen in Arizona. We are not getting rid of state-funded border security resources to keep our communities safe, especially as the Biden Administration foolishly lifts Title 42. We’re also not capping, cutting or eliminating the historic universal school choice program that now has more than 50,000 participants. Needless to say, your Republican Majority at the Legislature will continue to fight to protect Arizona from turning into California at the hands of the radical left.”

After the House cleared the budget on Wednesday, Speaker Toma also championed this major achievement for his chamber and caucus: “From day one, our Majority has been focused on getting the job done for our constituents: putting Arizona families first, protecting the vulnerable, and growing opportunity and freedom. We’re conservatives. We believe you should keep more of your money and the government should spend less. That’s why we believe this is Arizona’s Budget — a budget that reflects our needs, gives back, spends smart, and addresses real issues. We needed a budget that the Governor would sign that accomplishes our goal of putting Arizona families first. This budget accomplishes both.”

Cathi Herrod, President of the Center for Arizona Policy, also praised Republican leaders for protecting the future of family values in the budget. She wrote, “I credit Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma for standing strong against any pro-abortion funding or other measures. The popular universal Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program did not get a cap or any restrictions, which is great news for all Arizona families who want to choose the best educational environment for their children.”

The Senate Republicans shared additional highlights from the Fiscal Year 2023 budget:

  • Education: $680 million in new education investments, including a $300 million infusion into K-12, an $88 million ongoing increase to per pupil funding, and $183 million for school capital funding
  • Public Safety: $256 million, including operational investments for the Departments of Corrections, Public Safety, and Emergency and Military Affairs, as well as $36 million in local sheriff and police department support
  • Transportation: $610 million in state and local transportation projects, including $89 million to expand lanes on the I-10, $76 million to expand lanes on the I-17, as well as $54 million in pavement rehabilitation for roads affected by winter weather
  • Tax Cuts: $260 million for the Arizona Families Tax Rebate, which will provide up to $750 to taxpayers with children and adult dependents
  • Health and Welfare: $342 million, including $150 million for the Housing Trust Fund to develop more affordable housing, $60 million for emergency homeless services and temporary shelters, as well as $14 million specifically allocated for veteran housing and employment services
  • Natural Resources: $174 million in natural resource investments, including $143 million in reallocated funding for targeted water-related projects

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

Gov. Katie Hobbs Holds ‘Listening Sessions’ To Understand Border Crisis

Gov. Katie Hobbs Holds ‘Listening Sessions’ To Understand Border Crisis

By Corinne Murdock |

Last week, Gov. Katie Hobbs held “listening sessions” ahead of her third trip to the southern border in order to better understand the border crisis.

Hobbs met with groups that provide housing and transport for illegal immigrants seeking asylum to discuss the anticipated impact of Title 42’s end come May 11. These included Campesinos sin Fronteras, International Rescue Committee, Regional Center Border Health and representatives from Greyhound lines and Sky Harbor International Airport.

The governor claimed in a press release that her administration has “proactively” addressed the crisis. 

“My administration is proactively addressing the myriad of issues with our southern border, and want to hear from organizations on the ground regarding how the administration can better support efforts to coordinate and collaborate on processing these individuals in the most humane and efficient manner,” said Hobbs. 

There have been well over 4.9 million southwest border encounters since President Joe Biden took office. That’s an average of over 197,000 encounters a month. At this rate, there could be well over 9.4 million illegal immigrant encounters by the end of the president’s first term. 

The encounter data doesn’t include gotaways: those illegal immigrants not apprehended but observed crossing into the country. 

Hobbs plans to visit the border on Tuesday; her third since taking office in January, previously visiting Yuma, San Luis, and Somerton. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas plans to join Hobbs for this latest border visit. 

The governor has taken the opposite approach from her predecessor when it comes to border security. Almost immediately after taking office, Hobbs had the shipping containers removed and repurposed into houses for the homeless. Hobbs claimed that former Gov. Doug Ducey’s effort to close the border was a “publicity stunt,” and not a permanent solution.

The state spent about $95 million on construction and $75 million on removal of the shipping containers.

Following her election, Hobbs also pledged to dissolve Ducey’s Border Strike Force (BSF), established in 2015. Hobbs clarified during a press conference last month that the BSF would go away — but not its funding and resources. 

“Right now, the Border Strike Force is not actually being utilized at the border, so we want to coordinate those resources where they can be most helpful with the law enforcement there,” said Hobbs. “It’s really important to listen to the folks working in the field that are experts on these and take our direction from them.”

Hobbs has also advocated for greater benefits to illegal immigrants, asking lawmakers for $40 million to finance illegal immigrants’ college tuition during her State of the State address in January. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Maricopa County Attorney Fights Hobbs On Death Penalty Decision

Maricopa County Attorney Fights Hobbs On Death Penalty Decision

By Daniel Stefanski |

The Maricopa County Attorney would like a word with the Arizona Governor after her decision to disregard the execution order for a condemned man on the state’s death row.

This week, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell filed a writ of mandamus with the Arizona Supreme Court to “ensure Governor Katie Hobbs and Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry (ADCRR) director Ryan Thornell adhere to their oaths of office to enforce the death penalty and comply with victims’ constitutional and statutory rights.” The question presented before the state’s high court is whether the Governor and ADCRR Director “are threatening to proceed without legal authority and failing to perform a duty – the lawful execution of Aaron Brian Gunches on April 6, 2023 – as required by law.”

After filing the amicus with the court, Mitchell released the following statement: “As County Attorney, I took an oath to uphold the US Constitution and the constitution and laws of the State of Arizona. These recognize that both the victim and the accused have rights. Our brief recognizes and supports the right of victims to a “prompt and final conclusion of the case.” It also gives the defendant notice of the recent US Supreme Court decision, even though we do not believe it applies in his case. What is not at issue is what the sentence is for his crime.”

The Maricopa County Attorney’s action follows Democrat Governor Hobbs’ earlier announcement that she would not be fulfilling the execution date for Gunches after the Arizona Supreme Court issued an execution warrant for April 6, 2023. The Gunches saga predates to the previous Ducey-Brnovich administrations, which came to an end on January 2, 2023. Former Attorney General Mark Brnovich had requested the warrant of execution for Gunches in December 2022.

In Mitchell’s filing before the court, she highlights a 1915 response from the same judicial body to a warden “who refused to comply with, and carry out, the order and directors of this Court to execute the sentence of death” in State ex rel. Jones v. Sims. The Court wrote: “Of course, it must be understood that men’s opinions and wishes cannot be substituted and made to take the place of the law; that this is a government of laws, and not of men, and that those persons whom the people have chosen to execute the laws must do so, however disagreeable or repugnant to their wishes it may be. It is not a jealousy of our processes that calls forth this expression, but [jealousy] of the law as it exists. The people and their representatives make the laws, and their observation and enforcement is the only sure test of loyalty and certain guaranty of the perpetuity of our government.”

Mitchell argues that “the Governor is bound by the Constitution and statutes to carry out executions after this court issues a warrant,” that “the Arizona Constitution limits the Governor’s exercise of Executive Clemency power,” and that “Governor Hobbs’s unilateral decision to grant a de facto reprieve violates the victim’s constitutional right to a prompt and final conclusion.”

Governor Hobbs’ decision to unilaterally cancel the court-ordered execution of Gunches coincides with her installation of a Death Penalty Independent Review Commissioner to review and provide “transparency into the ADCRR lethal injection drug and gas chamber chemical procurement process, execution protocols, and staffing considerations including training experience.” The Maricopa County Attorney’s brief contends that “this Court further found that Governor Hobbs’ Commissioner review, by itself, ‘does not demonstrate the State’s inability to lawfully carry out the execution.’”

Earlier this month, Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen expressed extreme displeasure with Governor Hobbs’ controversial decision to withhold justice in this case. Petersen provided the following quote to AZ Free News when asked for a reaction to Maricopa County Attorney Mitchell’s recent filing in court: “I applaud the County Attorney for supporting justice and victims. The Senate and House will be writing an Amicus brief in favor of justice as well. It is disturbing to see that our current Governor and Attorney General are unwilling to enforce the law and siding with the most vile individuals of society.”

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

Maricopa County Attorney Fights Hobbs On Death Penalty Decision

Hobbs Vows Not To Carry Out Execution Of Murderer Aaron Gunches

By Daniel Stefanski |

Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs is delaying justice for the victims of a convicted killer, and the State Senate President is furious with her calculation to ignore a recent execution warrant issued by the Arizona Supreme Court.

Last week, the state’s top court issued an execution warrant for a convicted murderer, Aaron Gunches, who was first sentenced to death in 2008 for the killing of Ted Price in 2002. Following an early-December 2022 request from then-Attorney General Mark Brnovich for a warrant of execution, the Arizona Supreme Court finally set an April 6 execution date – even in the face of tremendous opposition from Arizona’s new governor and attorney general.

After receiving the order from the state’s high court, Hobbs issued a lengthy statement, announcing that she would not be fulfilling the execution date for Gunches and justifying her decision. The governor wrote: “Yesterday, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a warrant of execution for Aaron Brian Gunches, despite the State withdrawing its motion and informing the Court that the State does not seek to carry out an execution at this time….the State and ADCRR (Arizona Department of Corrections Rehabilitation & Reentry) does not intend to proceed with an execution on April 6, 2023.”

Arizona’s Senate President, Warren Petersen, was outraged by the governor’s decree, tweeting, “He should absolutely be executed! Imagine if a Republican governor refused to carry out this order made by the court!”

And he later added, “Criminals over victims. Not a good look for Arizona.”

Governor Hobbs’ decision to halt Gunches’ execution comes after a chaotic change in policy from the Governor’s and Attorney General’s Offices following the transition of power on January 2, 2023. On January 20, Hobbs established a Death Penalty Independent Review Commissioner, tasking this individual to review and provide “transparency into the ADCRR lethal injection drug and gas chamber chemical procurement process, execution protocols, and staffing considerations including training and experience.” Hobbs stated then that “Arizona has a history of mismanaged executions that have resulted in serious questions and concerns about ADCRR’s execution protocols and lack of transparency.”

The governor’s rollout of this executive order included cooperation from newly installed Attorney General Kris Mayes, who announced that day that her office “filed a motion to withdraw the warrant of execution for Aaron Brian Gunches.” She announced that her office would “also pause all requests for warrants of execution while the review process (that Hobbs was implementing) is pending.”

Mayes did acknowledge the family members of the murdered victim who were caught in the middle of the political posturing, tweeting, “My heart goes out to the family of Ted Price. I know this must be an unimaginable situation for them. Families of victims of those on death row deserve sympathy and support from all of us, and I extend mine to Mr. Price’s family today.”

On February 24, Governor Hobbs announced the appointment of retired Judge David Duncan as the Commissioner she previously promised – again repeating her claim about Arizona’s history of “mismanaged executions” despite the past three executions under former Attorney General Brnovich and former Governor Doug Ducey occurring as planned. Also, as with her January 20th statement, the governor expressed confidence in her choice to lead the ADCRR, Ryan Thornell, who was nominated on January 17. Thornell was selected from his role as the Deputy Commissioner of Corrections for the Maine Department of Corrections.

Governor Hobbs gave Thornell another endorsement in her most-recent statement announcing that she would not be going forward with Gunches’ execution, saying, “Director Thornell will continue to build up ADCRR’s staffing and competencies to be able to conduct an execution in compliance with state and federal laws, and will balance that work with the work needed to solve the urgent medical, mental health, and other critical problems the Director has inherited from the prior administration.”

According to Senate sources, though, Thornell’s nomination has not been transmitted to the Arizona Legislature for consent as is constitutionally required. Once the Governor’s Office complies with the Arizona Constitution, Thornell would face a rigorous vetting process by the panel commissioned by President Petersen and chaired by Senator Jake Hoffman. With two – and possibly three – of Hobbs’ original choices to run state agencies already derailed by a lack of vetting from her office, Thornell’s journey – and the stability of the agency he has been tasked to run – faces significant question marks as the governor’s administration hits its third month of operation.

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