Arizona Lawmakers Share Concerns With Election Procedure Manual Development

Arizona Lawmakers Share Concerns With Election Procedure Manual Development

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizona Republican Legislators continue to share their concerns about the progression of the latest Election Procedure Manual (EPM).

On Friday, Arizona State Representatives Michael Carbone and Steve Montenegro issued a press release, “criticizing an extremely short public comment period set by Secretary of State Adrian Fontes for his 2023 EPM.” They demanded that Fontes “extend the deadline for public comment” after the state’s election chief set the deadline for August 15.

In a statement, Carbone said, “Requiring public comments to be submitted by August 15th is simply too restrictive and does not provide adequate time for interested stakeholders to review the draft 2023 EPM for compliance with state law. It is our understanding that several provisions have already been identified that appear to run afoul of state law. We urge Secretary Fontes to extend the public comment deadline to at least September 1, 2023, to give the public an adequate opportunity to review and provide input on the most important elections manual that will guide county officials in administering their duties in the 2024 elections.”

Montenegro added, “The Elections Procedures Manual is of paramount importance to ensuring the integrity and security of election administration in Arizona. Secretary Fontes should have given the public more than 15 days to review his extensive 259-page draft of the EPM and submit comments. A longer comment period is particularly necessary and reasonable this year because Arizona has not had a legally compliant EPM since 2019.”

Carbone and Montenegro encouraged “Arizona voters to participate in the process to keep both elected and unelected election officers transparent and accountable” by submitting public comments to the draft EPM.

On Tuesday, August 1, Secretary Fontes commenced the 15-day public comment period for the 2023 EPM. Fontes wrote, “As a former County Recorder, I understand how important this manual is for the dedicated Arizonans who are entrusted with one of the toughest and most important jobs in our democracy. In an atmosphere of heightened scrutiny of our elections, local and county officials need clear guidance based on law. Now that we are at the start of our public comment period, I look forward to continuing this important conversation about a document that is essential to the running of safe, secure, and accurate elections in every corner of our state.”

Fontes emphasized the input that had already gone into the drafting of the EPM, assuring readers “It is important that the people who administer Arizona’s elections – the statutorily required stakeholders – be given the first opportunity to suggest changes. He revealed that his office had initiated “a series of monthly meetings with local and county election officials to suggest changes and garner feedback.”

The warning from Carbone and Montenegro follows a recent letter that was transmitted to Secretary Fontes by Representatives Jacqueline Parker and Alexander Kolodin, who highlighted certain issues with the initial copy of the EPM that they had seen from his office. That letter from the two legislators, written just days before Fontes allowed the public to view the document, identified eight possible violations of Arizona statutes in four chapters of the draft EPM. The legislators commented that they “are looking forward to seeing these provisions addressed prior to the EPM’s submittal to the Governor and the Attorney General on October 1, 2023.”

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

Hobbs Veto Spree Continues, Kills Bill That Would Protect Pregnant Women From Abuse

Hobbs Veto Spree Continues, Kills Bill That Would Protect Pregnant Women From Abuse

By Daniel Stefanski |

As more bills make their way to Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs’ office, the rate of usage for her veto stamp has accelerated.

On Monday, Governor Hobbs vetoed four pieces of legislation that were recently transmitted from the Legislature to her office, giving her a total of 24 vetoes for this session.

The bills that Hobbs vetoed were HB 2427 (sponsored by Representative Matt Gress), HB 2440 (sponsored by Representative Gail Griffin), HB 2472 (sponsored by Representative Steve Montenegro), and HB 2056 (sponsored by Representative Lupe Diaz).

HB 2427 would have classified, “as aggravated assault punishable as a class 3 felony, assault against a pregnant victim if the person knows or has reason to know the victim is pregnant and circumstances exist that classify the offense as domestic violence.” In her veto letter, Hobbs pointed to “Arizona’s leading advocacy organization for victims of domestic violence” saying that the bill “will do nothing to deter domestic violence offenses or support pregnant victims.”

This bill garnered the most outrage out of the four Hobbs vetoed Monday. Bill sponsor, Matt Gress, responded on Twitter, saying, “Regarding HB 2427, I’ll never apologize for toughening penalties on abusers who assault pregnant women.”

The Arizona Freedom Caucus tweeted, “Hobbs vetoed a bill requiring harsher punishments for people convicted of domestic violence of a pregnant woman.”

However, as expected, Legislative Democrats cheered the governor’s veto of this bill immediately following the announcement from her office. Senator Anna Hernandez said, “This veto was crucial for protecting Arizonans from an underhanded attack on reproductive justice. Representative Gress and the Joint Republicans Caucus’ continued assault on our rights to safe and accessible abortion indicate that their ‘pro-life’ stance has always been about control not care.” And Representative Analise Ortiz added, “The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence agreed that HB 2427 did nothing to protect survivors. To prevent domestic violence, we must invest in real solutions by expanding access to counseling, housing, childcare, and economic stability.”

HB 2440 would have required “public power entities and public service corporations to prioritize reliable and affordable electric service when conducting infrastructure planning and investments.” Hobbs justified her decision by writing that the bill “is unnecessary and creates regulatory uncertainty in instances where affordability and reliability may be at odds.”

HB 2472 would have prohibited “the State of Arizona from requiring a bank or financial institution to use a social credit score when the bank or financial institution evaluates whether to lend money to a customer.” Hobbs explained that she believed “this bill is overly vague and should not be codified into law,” in part, because “it does not define ‘social credit scores’ – nor do those systems exist anywhere in the United States.”

HB 2056 would have exempted “a dry wash, arroyo, swale, gully or rill or other similar erosional feature that is characterized by low volume, infrequent or short duration flows from the Dredge and Fill Permit Program.” Hobbs argued that this bill created “regulatory confusion and uncertainty by forcing an unnecessary conflict between state law and the federal determination of Waters of the United States.”

House Speaker Ben Toma addressed the pattern of vetoes from the Ninth Floor of the Arizona Executive Tower, stating: “Issuing vetoes is easy. Actual leadership requires hard work, and Republicans in the legislature will continue to pass good public policies that make the state better for working Arizonans and families.”

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

Arizona League Of Cities And Towns’ Lobbyist Fights For Right To Ban Gas Stoves

Arizona League Of Cities And Towns’ Lobbyist Fights For Right To Ban Gas Stoves

By Daniel Stefanski |

Republicans in the Arizona Legislature are taking action to protect their constituents from the environmental activism of the Biden Administration’s sweeping national agenda, and one House panel may have uncovered some information given during a hearing that supports the motivations for pursuing this legislation.

On Monday, the Arizona House Health and Human Services Committee considered a strike everything amendment to SB 1278. The amendment would forbid “municipalities and counties from prohibiting or imposing fines that restrict the manufacturing, selling or ownership of an appliance that uses the services of a utility provider.” The sponsor of the amendment, and chairman of the committee, Representative Steve Montenegro, explained that he was willing to take this action to “protect the ability for citizens to have such a simple use at a price they can afford” – when it comes to gas versus electric appliances. He opined that many families would not be able to afford the newer electric alternatives if gas options became extinct.

During Monday’s hearing, a representative from the Arizona League of Cities and Towns testified in opposition to the amendment, saying that “several cities expressed concerns about their participation in federal programs” (should this proposal be enacted into law). This comment sparked Chairman Montenegro to ask if these cities and towns were in support of banning gas appliances. The League’s representative responded that some cities have already implemented certain standards that they have to abide by – thus the reason for the opposition to the legislation. The representative later clarified that these standards primarily applied to water conservation programs, but he stated the position of these jurisdictions was that “they want to be able to require that those appliances can be energy or water efficient.” He also admitted that there were some cities and towns that would like to prioritize energy or water efficient appliances over gas appliances.

The Arizona efforts follow a months-long saga over reports that the Biden Administration is seeking to ban gas stoves. On January 17, 2023, The U.S. House Energy and Commerce (ENC) Committee wrote, “President Biden wants to control every aspect of our lives – from what kind of cars we can drive, how we can heat our homes, and now how we’re allowed to cook food for our families. Last week, it was reported that the Biden administration is looking to ban gas stoves from American homes across the country.”

This statement from the powerful Congressional committee followed a letter to the president, sent by Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers and dozens of her colleagues on January 13, calling on the Biden Administration to “cease all efforts at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and any other federal agency to ban natural gas stoves and other home appliances reliant on natural gas, and to affirm the importance of natural gas as an affordable and reliable energy and heat source for American homes, from our homes to our furnaces.” The letter detailed how, “according to recent news reports, a CPSC Commissioner has called for banning or restricting the use of natural gas stoves by Americans in their homes.”

In a January 13 letter from McMorris Rodgers to CPSC Chairman Alexander Hoehn-Saric, she noted that “the Energy Information Agency estimates that 35% of homes in the United States –

more than 40 million Americans – use a natural gas stove.” And “alternatives to natural gas stoves, such as electrical or induction stoves, face safety and economic challenges. In a study of home cooking fires, the National Fire Protection Association found that ‘although 60 percent of households cook with electricity, four out of five ranges or cooktops involved in reported cooking fires were powered by electricity.’ The report also indicated that ‘the civilian fire injury rate per million households was 4.8 times higher with electric ranges than in households using gas ranges.’” The ENC Chair argued that “if the CPSC would move forward to ban natural gas stoves, or other home goods reliant upon such fuel, it would increase the dangers facing families who depend on natural gas and can’t afford to replace their home appliances.”

Representative Matt Gress, in explaining his vote to clear the amended bill from committee, said that he “finds it fascinating that opponents of this measure have clearly articulated what (he sees) as a troubling trend across this country where cities, towns, and states are using health and safety concerns as a facade for implementing a radical, Green New Deal agenda.”

House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci endorsed the efforts to protect Arizonans from environmental activism, telling AZ Free News, “The fact that certain liberal states, like California, are telling people what kind of utilities they can or can’t use is exactly why people are flocking to Republican run states like Arizona. We live in a free market where the consumer, not the government, should decide what they want or don’t want to consume. I’m proud to see the Republican Arizona Legislature pass these types of bills to protect our state from these woke policies.”

Senator Janae Shamp, whose bill was used for the strike everything amendment, also commented to AZ Free News about the recent action in the House, saying, “I welcome the amendment from Representative Montenegro and look forward to passing common sense protections that ensure the rights and freedoms of Arizonans. It is ridiculous, but no longer surprising, that these sorts of bills need to be passed to counter and block a radical and increasingly ludicrous left-wing national agenda. Liberals, whose devotion to the church of climate change trumps any pretense of helping people, do not care about the high costs that their proposals would pass along to lower income and working families. That is why they are willing to trade thousands of dollars in additional expenses for each Arizona family, in exchange for negligible potential benefits.”

The amended bill was approved by Montenegro’s committee with a party-line 5-4 vote. It now awaits further action by the Arizona House of Representatives.

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

Hobbs Expected To Veto Bill That Prevents Discrimination Based On “Social Score”

Hobbs Expected To Veto Bill That Prevents Discrimination Based On “Social Score”

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizona Republicans continue to take action to protect the financial interests and futures of their constituents – even though these current efforts face an uncertain fate with Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs’ veto stamp looming and already very active this legislative session.

Representative Steve Montenegro introduced HB 2472, which deals with a prohibition on the use of social credits. According to the overview provided by the Arizona House, this bill “asserts that the State may not require a bank to use a social credit score in determining whether to lend money.”

HB 2472 passed both the House Commerce and Rules Committees with 6-4 and 8-0 votes, respectively. This week, Montenegro’s bill made it to the floor of the Arizona House for an up-or-down vote. It passed 31-28, with one Democrat not voting.

In explaining her vote against this bill on the floor, Democrat Representative Athena Salman talked about the importance of financial institutions achieving and advancing the goal of gender equity.

One House Republican, Representative John Gillette, strongly disagreed with Salman’s viewpoint, tweeting, “We support equal opportunity, not equal outcome.”

The Republican Liberty Caucus of Arizona supported this bill throughout its House journey, stating, “The terms of a loan should be negotiated by a bank and the customer with minimal government interference. Once government colludes with banks to impose social credit scores, people will begin to lose their individual rights and the economy with suffer. Government will naturally use social credit scores to control people’s behavior, in the interest of government, not the individual. Private businesses will lose profits as they make business decisions not on market demands, but on deeply flawed ESG standards. We must reject government imposed social credit scores and ESG, and instead support free market policies. Only in a free market can we truly have freedom and prosperity.”

ESG (Environmental, social, and corporate governance) has been given heightened visibility in recent years as many Republicans around the country have identified this as a threat to their constituents’ financial futures and security. One of the leaders in this arena is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has made the fight against ESG one of the priorities of his administration. Prior to 2023, Arizona had two statewide officials, who were extremely active in fighting back against the ESG movement with former Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Treasurer Kimberly Yee.

However, the transition of power in the Arizona Attorney General’s Office halted Brnovich’s investigative efforts into this movement. Kris Mayes, Arizona’s new top prosecutor, stopped an ongoing investigation from her predecessor, saying, “corporations increasingly realize that investing in sustainability is both good for our country, our environment, and public health and good for their bottom lines. The state of Arizona is not going to stand in the way of corporations’ efforts to move in the right direction.”

But State Treasurer Kimberly Yee continues to be an active opponent of ESG. Her office took several positions and actions against ESG during her first term, including revising the Arizona State Treasurer’s Office Investment Policy Statement to ensure that the Office “investments are not subject to the subjective political whims of the ESG standards.” Yee stated, “This is about maintaining American free-market principles that our country was founded upon and not allowing environmental or social goals to dictate how taxpayer monies are managed.”

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