If it wasn’t already apparent, the Republican-led Arizona Legislature and the state’s Democrat chief executive will not be coming together anytime soon on measures pertaining to election integrity.
On Wednesday, Senator J.D. Mesnard issued a press release to announce that Governor Katie Hobbs had vetoed a number of his bills “aimed at increasing voter confidence, convenience, transparency and timeliness of election results.”
The bills Mesnard was referring to were SB 1595, SB 1596, and SB 1598. SB 1595 would have “prescribed additional requirements for an early ballot to be counted and valid, required a voter to present valid identification by the prescribed days after an election for a ballot that was delivered by a voter’s agents or a voter who does not provide sufficient identification, removed the requirement that the period of early voting must end at 5:00pm on the Friday preceding the election, and deemed the early ballot of a voter who is issued an early ballot during the early voting period after confirming identification and stamped as ready for tabulating.”
SB 1596 would have “required a state, county, city, town or school district office to provide sufficient space for use as a polling place for an election when requested by the officer in charge of elections.”
SB 1598 would have “allowed a candidate for federal office to designate a representative who may act as an observer at a counting center and prescribed requirements relating to the conduct of party representatives, challengers and observers.”
Senator Mesnard released a statement in conjunction with his release, saying, “To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. Elections are becoming more chaotic and more controversial in Arizona with each passing cycle. We’ve seen it take weeks, sometimes more than a month, to count ballots and determine the winners of races. Following the last election, I heard more complaints across the political spectrum about the length of time it takes Arizona to finish counting than I did any other issue, and it’s a problem we can easily solve. Ignoring these problems is a complete disservice to our voters who are taking their precious time to exercise their civic duty. We can’t just kick the can down the road every year. My proposals were commonsense, practical to implement and would have made a real difference in tackling some of the issues voters continue to complain about. I look forward to trying again to provide impactful election reform next session.”
The governor didn’t have much to add in her veto letters for the three bills. For SB 1595, she wrote, “This bill fails to meaningfully address the real challenges facing Arizona voters.” For SB 1596, Hobbs explained: “This bill creates an unfunded and untenable mandate for schools and communities. This bill once had an appropriation, demonstrating that it needs funding to be viable. However, it was not included in the budget, and as such, I cannot support it.” And for SB 1598, Hobbs stated, “As it is not clear what problem this bill is attempting to address or if any such problem exists, I cannot support it.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
A push to protect Arizonans’ constitutional liberties for future health emergencies hit a dead end after clearing both chambers of the Arizona Legislature.
This week, Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs vetoed SB 1250, which dealt with vaccine requirements and religious exemptions to those mandated medical shots. The governor’s veto was her 20th of the legislative session.
In a letter to President Warren Petersen on Thursday, the governor explained her reasoning for rejecting the legislature’s proposal: “This bill is unnecessary, as legal protections for an employee’s religious beliefs already exist in federal employment law. This bill also threatens employers with a civil penalty and a hefty fine, which could be devastating for Arizona’s many small businesses.”
Hobbs encouraged legislative leaders to “work to find bipartisan solutions that promote the educated and healthy workforce that is essential for Arizona’s economy.”
Senator Janae Shamp, the bill’s sponsor, was not pleased with the governor’s action, releasing the following statement in response: “I spent my entire career as a nurse, being an advocate for my patients and ensuring that their beliefs are respected and protected. The reason I’m here at the Senate, is because I was fired from my job as a nurse after refusing to get the experimental COVID-19 vaccine. My top priority is this bill because during the pandemic, Americans’ medical freedoms were taken from them, myself included. For me, the Governor’s veto is personal. Not just for me but for every Arizonan who lost their job in the same manner.”
Shamp also addressed the governor’s call for bipartisan solutions, saying, “To call out those who stood to protect our health from an experimental shot that is proving to be toxic for many, is beyond an insult. If we truly care about our healthcare and getting people back to work, then maybe we should come together to get nurses back into our hospitals.”
The senator promised “to continue to fight for Arizonans’ medical freedom.”
On Twitter, Senator Shamp went further, calling Governor Hobbs “an open medical tyrant.”
SB 1250 instituted these main provisions (among others) for state law:
– “Requires employers to allow employees that complete a religious exemption form to opt out of vaccination requirements for COVID-19, influenza A, influenza B, flu or any vaccine authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use only.”
– “Prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee regarding employment, wages or benefits based on vaccination status; and from inquiring into the veracity of an employee’s religious beliefs practices or observances to the extent beyond what is allowed under federal law.”
– “Allows a terminated employee who was not offered or was denied a vaccination religious exemption by their employer to file a complaint with the Attorney General.”
This legislation closely tracked an opinion request from former Senator Kelly Townsend to former Attorney General Mark Brnovich, which was answered on August 20, 2021. Townsend asked three questions, including whether an employer could require a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. Brnovich, who had several lawsuits over federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates (including the first one in the nation that was filed in Brnovich v. Biden), found that “under federal and state law, employers who mandate vaccinations must provide reasonable accommodations to employees who cannot obtain the COVID-19 vaccine due to a disability or a sincerely-held religious belief.”
Brnovich’s opinion also outlined that “a sincerely-held religious belief about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine includes a moral or ethical belief against receiving a COVID-19 vaccine that has the strength of a traditional religious view.” On the 2022 campaign trail, current Attorney General Kris Mayes was asked about forced vaccine mandates by private businesses and responded, “Of course they can. It is a private business.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed a bill Wednesday which would have allowed Maricopa County voters to decide next year whether to extend a 2004 voter approved one-half cent transportation tax for another 25 years.
Ducey explained in his veto notice that his action was not about whether the 20-year voter approved Proposition 400 tax set to expire in December 2025 should be extended. Instead, he determined lawmakers approved House Bill 2685 with ballot language that was not responsible nor transparent.
“The language is not only biased, but it fails to include any mention of the increase of 20 to 25 years nor the changes to distribution for state highways, local roads and public transit,” Ducey wrote, pointing out the proposed ballot measure also does not take into consideration passage of the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act.
As a result, Ducey noted that what voters would have been asked to approve “does not properly account for the opportunity to properly leverage state dollars for federal transportation infrastructure funding.”
HB2685 passed the State Senate with only 7 aye votes from the 16 members of its Republican caucus, while the bill received support of only 10 of the 31 House Republicans on the final vote. It was introduced in March to replace Senate Bill 1356 which did not make it out of the House Rules Committee.
Ducey’s veto notice did not have much good to say about HB2685, but he gave a shout out to Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita for introducing various amendments to both bills to address several concerns the majority of Republican lawmakers had with the language of the ballot measure.
The amendments offered by Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) would have ensured a fairer ballot description narrative, Ducey explained, as well as provide more strategic insight into how the transportation and infrastructure tax dollars would be spent.
“Unfortunately, none of these amendments were adopted,” Ducey wrote, adding that asking voters to approve the extension as proposed “is not the way to address the needs of our growing state.”
Reaction to Ducey’s veto was swift, including a statement from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club which called the veto “well-deserved” to avoid allocating transportation dollars for bike lanes, trollies, and “little used transit” at the expense of critical freeway maintenance.
“We commend the Governor for this wise decision and for hearing the concerns brought up by opponents throughout the process as well as thousands of Arizona taxpayers who expressed deep concerns over the poorly drafted legislation,” the AFEC statement reads. “The real victors of course are the taxpayers themselves who deserve common sense transportation policy and accountability for their tax dollars.”
Also complimenting Ducey’s veto was the Arizona Chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus.
However, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego tweeted that she was profoundly disappointed by what she called Ducey’s shortsighted, anti-economic development, and “out of touch” veto.
One thing Gallego’s six-part missive did not mention is there is nothing in Ducey’s veto to prevent legislators from drafting a sounder bill next session and get it before voters in plenty of time to be decided before the one-half cent tax expires.
Gov. Doug Ducey described bipartisan legislation which sought to strengthen the State Emergency Council “well intentioned,” but he vetoed the bill anyway on Friday.
Senate Bill 1719 was one of 24 bills transmitted to the governor’s desk June 30, the last day of the legislative session. It was the only one vetoed by Ducey, who believed changing the law related to the State Emergency Council “would add unneeded bureaucracy to the management of emergencies, especially wildfires.”
There are 12 voting members of the State Emergency Council which recommends rules, orders, policies, and procedures to the governor during a declared state of emergency. State law requires the Council to “monitor each emergency declared by the governor” as well as the activities and responses to the emergency.
The Council is also required to recommend to the governor or the legislature when it believes emergency conditions have stabilized and the emergency “is substantially contained.”
Currently, the Council can be convened by the director of the Arizona Division of Emergency Management if the governor “is inaccessible.” It can then issue a state of emergency proclamation if approved at by at least three members of the Council, at least one of whom must be an elected official.
However, the law makes no mention of what happens if an accessible governor fails to convene the Council.
SB1719 was introduced in January by Senate President Karen Fann and Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios to bipartisan support. It would have required a governor to convene the Council “on or before the fourteenth day after proclaiming a statewide state of emergency…and shall continue to convene the council at least once every fourteen days for the duration of the statewide state of emergency.”
Under the bill, a statewide state of emergency would terminate if the governor failed to convene the Council according to the ongoing 14-day timeline.
The House passed SB1719 on a 44 to 14 vote margin and the Senate unanimously passed it on a 29 to 0 vote. But Ducey vetoed the bill.
In a July 9 letter explaining his action, the governor wrote such a law was “unnecessary given the good and thoughtful reformed developed this session between my office and the legislature to ensure guard rails during future health emergencies, preventing the potential for the kind of extreme and job destroying measures that we saw in other placed around the country last year.”
The members of the State Emergency Council are: the governor, the secretary of state, the state attorney general, the Arizona Adjutant General, the director of the division of emergency management, the director of the department of transportation, the director of the department of health services, the director of environmental quality, the director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the director of the state’s department of agriculture, the director of the department of administration, and the director of water resources.
There are also two advisory members -the Senate President and the Speaker of the House- who may give advice to the other members of the State Emergency Council but who is not eligible to vote. SB1719 included a provision to add several other legislative leaders as advisory members.