It’s a tale as old as January 2023: Arizona’s Democrat Governor and Republican-led Legislature aren’t agreeing on much in this session; and they certainly aren’t coming together on issues of election integrity.
Governor Katie Hobbs recently vetoed SB 1074, sponsored by Senator Sonny Borrelli, which would have prohibited “the use of electronic voting equipment as the primary method for tabulating votes in any city, town, county, state or federal election unless the outlined requirements are met.” The legislation would also prescribe “requirements relating to the source codes for electronic voting equipment.”
The governor didn’t provide much information in her veto letter to Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen, writing, “The election equipment required by the bill, as well as the problem it purports to solve, does not exist. This bill neither strengthens our democracy, nor ensures that Arizonans can better exercise their fundamental right to vote. I stand ready to receive bills that do.”
The bill sponsor, Borrelli, was outraged at the governor’s decision, issuing a press release to “call out Governor Hobbs for her continued blatant political games after she vetoed a bill that would have established oversight, security and transparency on electronic voting systems.”
Senator Borrelli stated: “In her veto letter, Governor Hobbs stated the election equipment required by the bill does not exist. This is in fact a lie. The equipment exists, but the components are made in the People’s Republic of China and other non-friendly countries. She’s pushing the idea that the United States of America could not onshore the manufacturing of tabulation equipment, which is absolutely absurd. There is nothing the American workforce cannot do given the right opportunities.”
He continued, saying, “Furthermore, Governor Hobbs falsely stated that this bill purports to solve a problem that does not exist. I beg to differ. Any electronic device can be manipulated to have a certain outcome. You need source codes to determine this, but they’re not being provided with the current system. You would think the former Secretary of State would know that in 2013, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated elections systems as critical infrastructure. This means these systems should be subjected to the same national security standards that the U.S. Department of Defense would apply to any critical infrastructure. Having a third-party vendor with total autonomy is not good for security, voter confidence, nor democracy. This bill would have taken the politics out of the voting process and created a neutral party that works for the Legislature. Fair and honest elections are a bi-partisan concern, albeit only when Democrats are the ones to benefit. Hobbs’ obstructive and cavalier attitude has been part of the destruction of transparency and oversight within our elections.”
SB 1074 originated in the Senate and was considered by the Elections Committee in February, where it passed by a vote of 5-3. The full Senate then approved of the measure in March, 16-13, with one member (Senator Gonzales) not voting. Borrelli’s proposal was then transmitted to the House and heard in the Municipal Oversight & Elections Committee, where it received six Republican votes compared to four Democrat votes (with Representative Jacqueline Parker absent for that vote). The full House then gave the bill the green light with a 31-27 tally, with two Democrat members not voting, making it possible for the legislation to be sent to the Governor’s Office.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
In what has being characterized by some lawmakers as a “tantrum,” Governor Doug Ducey announced on Twitter Friday afternoon that he has vetoed 22 bills and that he will not sign any other legislation until a budget is passed. In a series of tweets, Governor Ducey characterized the vetoed bills as containing “good policy,” but that he was unhappy that the legislature failed to pass a budget before temporarily recessing for the Memorial Day weekend.
The decision to veto nearly two dozen bills without warning shocked many at the capitol, especially since the Governor was out of town all week at the Republican Governor’s Association meeting in Tennessee.
“It’s unfortunate the governor had to veto 22 bills today including one very important bill dealing with the prohibition of critical race theory indoctrination in government,” Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham told AZ Free News. “This is a direct result of a select few in both the House and Senate, who refuse to do what’s best for the citizens of Arizona and pass a fiscally sound conservative budget without wasteful spending and pork. It’s time to get to work and stay there until we put special interests aside, reduce burdensome taxes on our citizens, and vote for a responsible Republican budget.”
“The Governor’s decision to veto crucial election integrity legislation, as well as, his veto of a bill that would’ve banned taxpayer money from being used to teach the racist, bigoted Critical Race Theory (CRT) ideology is shocking and disappointing for the millions of Arizonans who support these measures,” said Rep. Jake Hoffman.
“The decision to employ strong arm tactics by vetoing over 20 Republican bills, presumably driven by some of his staff and advisors, reflects a fundamental miscalculation regarding the status and progress of the budget negotiations.” Hoffman concluded, “It is deeply concerning that they did not foresee how detrimental indiscriminately vetoing nearly two dozen bills would be on reaching consensus on the budget.”
Capitol insiders told AZ Free News that Governor Ducey has been absent throughout most of the budget negotiations, and most lawmakers have not heard from him or staff about the budget all session. “Not being in town during these final stages of budget negotiations was a real disappointment. If he cares so much, why hasn’t he been here.” said one lawmaker who wished to speak off the record.
The bills vetoed by Governor Ducey today include:
SB1022 unborn child; statutory language
SB1030 guilty except insane; court jurisdiction
SB1074 governance; audits; training
SB1119 attorney general; federal executive orders
SB1121 marijuana; security
SB1127 vehicle speed limits
SB1135 taxes; 529 contributions; ABLE contributions
SB1176 nutrition assistance; benefit match
SB1215 liquor; sales; delivery; identification information
The governor stated in his formal veto letter that the proposed budget agreement “makes responsible and significant investments in K-12 education, higher education, infrastructure and local communities, all while delivering historic tax relief to working families and small businesses.”
Another Capitol insider told AZ Free News, “I don’t think Governor Ducey realizes that his veto rampage likely created more problems than it solved. He wiped out a lot of hard work and expects lawmakers to come back because he now is finally interested in showing up to work after being AWOL all session? A lot of people down here won’t put up with this.”
Negotiations on the budget are expected to resume next week. The Legislature has until June 30th to pass a budget plan before the end of the fiscal year and avoid a government shutdown.
Votes by State Senators on three bills Thursday may have been overshadowed by the struggle to get budget legislation passed, but some legislators say the importance of those votes should not be ignored.
After its passage Thursday in the Senate, SB1074 was sent to Gov. Doug Ducey. The bill introduced by Sen. David Livingston (R-LD22) prohibits the state, as well as any state agency, city, town, county, or other political subdivision of Arizona from using public monies for and requiring an employee to engage in orientation, training, or therapy premised on any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex.
The 16 to 14 vote banning what is commonly called Critical Race Theory training from government workplaces is something Sam Stone, chief of staff for Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, applauds the Legislature for, as it stops what he calls “hate” in its tracks.
“A lot of people who aren’t familiar with it confuse Critical Race Theory with the racial sensitivity training they may have had in the past. Critical Race Theory is not that,” Stone told AZ Free News. “It is a pernicious, racist ideology that seeks to rewrite history, and asserts that every single white person is, by definition, a racist and every person of color a victim.. No one should ever be told who or what they are based on the color of their skin.”
But there is much more to SB1074 than the training prohibition.
If Ducey signs the bill, it will usher in a major change to how cities, towns, counties, and community college districts approve the financial statements related to statutorily-required audits. The approval is often conducted under the radar by a city or town council, county board of supervisors, and college board of directors through the consent agenda of a meeting.
No discussion is allowed of items on a consent agendas, leaving the public with little awareness of any problems identified during an audit. But under Livingston’s bill, Arizona’s cities, towns, counties, and community college districts would be prohibited from shielding a negative audit through a consent agenda vote.
SB1074 also requires the governing body to have the CPA or auditor who performed the audit or prepared the financial statements to make a public presentation of the results. And it must be conducted during a regular meeting of the public body which has been properly noticed.
Another bill headed to Ducey is HB2792 introduced by Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-LD12) to make it a felony for a county recorder or other election official to knowingly mail out an early ballot to a voter who has not requested the ballot. The bill is one of several put forth by Republicans in connection to election reforms, and it passed the Senate on a party line vote of 16 to 14.
One bill that did not make it to Ducey after Thursday’s vote is SB1532, which seeks to prohibit blame or judgment tenets or lesson plans, such as Critical Race Theory, from public schools. It also set rules for how educators can teach controversial topics, and includes a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per incident against a teacher who violates those mandates.
SB1532 has been the focus of many passioned comments from legislators since being introduced by Livingston several weeks ago. It passed the House earlier this month on a 31 to 29 party line vote, and would have needed the support of all 16 Republican Senators on Thursday to pass.
But it was the bill’s provision allowing prosecutors from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office or a local county attorney’s office to sit in classrooms to investigate a teacher’s conduct which led to Sen. Paul Boyer (R-LD20) voting no.
“I’ve been struggling with this bill,” said Boyer, a junior high school teacher, in explaining his vote.
The bill would have died on a 15 to 15 vote, but Livingston utilized a procedural maneuver to change his yes vote to a no vote on his own bill. The resultant 14 to 16 vote ensures Livingston has a chance to work on a possible amendment which would garner Boyer’s support on a reconsideration vote.
With the legislature expected to take up the budget package sooner than later, three high-profile bills appear to have been shelved by Senate President Karen Fann, despite growing calls for her to calendar them for a vote before the session ends.
HB2190, also known as the Vaccine Passport bill, along with SB1074 and SB1532 cleared the House and were transmitted to the Senate. But none have appeared on a Senate calendar, which is controlled by Fann.
SB1074 would prohibit state government entities, including cities and counties, from forcing employees to engage in orientation, training, or therapy that is based on a theory of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity, or gender. SB1532 bans Arizona’s public schools and community colleges from discussing controversial issues unless presented in a way which addresses diverse or opposing perspectives. Both are commonly referred to as anti-Critical Race Theory legislation.
Meanwhile, HB2190 seeks to protect the rights and private medical data of Arizonans against efforts to force consumers to prove their COVID-19 vaccine status or disclose their status in order to receive government benefits. The current version was introduced in February by Sen. Kelly Townsend and cleared the House through efforts by Rep. Bret Roberts, who has expressed frustration at the lack of action in the Senate.
“Let the Senators that want to be on the record, be on the record on this important issue!” he tweeted last week. In response, Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita responded by publicly supporting a vote on HB2190.
“I would like an opportunity to cast a yes vote for this bill. Put it on the board of truth!” tweeted Ugenti-Rita, who chairs the Senate’s Government Committee.
Behind the scenes, some members of the Republican caucus point to the fact Fann allowed SCR1044 -which deals with in-state tuition for DREAMERS and others without U.S. citizenship- to go to a floor vote but has dug in her heels on bills which seek to protect Arizona workers and students.
Bills which Fann has placed on Monday’s Senate calendar involve election deadlines, instruction of the Holocaust, the impounding of vehicles by law enforcement, and advertising rules for political action committees.