After Hobbs’ order on abortion prosecutions, Senate Republicans nix plans to weigh her nominees

Arizona Senate Republicans are retaliating against Gov. Katie Hobbs for her executive order last week that aims to ban county attorneys from prosecuting abortion providers

The three Republican members of the Senate Committee on Director Nominations — Chairman Jake Hoffman, Sine Kerr and T.J. Shope — sent a letter to Hobbs on Monday saying that they were canceling all further nomination hearings until the Hobbs administration meets with them to discuss what they called her abuse of power. 

“You hold the office of Governor in Arizona, not of monarch,” the senators wrote in their letter to Hobbs, calling the executive order a “blatant disregard for separation of powers.”



Hobbs, who campaigned on a pro-choice platform, signed the executive order Thursday. The order is aimed at stopping the state’s 15 county attorneys from prosecuting abortion providers by requiring abortion law violation cases to be referred solely to Attorney General Kris Mayes — a Democrat and staunch advocate for reproductive rights who has joined numerous initiatives to defend abortion access

“The conspiring of your offices and the Attorney General to circumvent the laws of this state and this country, two executive offices charged with enforcing statute as it stands, give the Legislature tremendous concern about your office’s future attempts to act outside its vested authorities,” the GOP senators wrote in the letter to Hobbs. 

After the constitutional right to an abortion that was recognized in Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, there were months of confusion and argument in Arizona over which of two abortion restriction laws already on the books in the state took precedence: a near total ban from 1864, decades before Arizona became a state, or a 15-week ban signed into law in spring 2022. 

The courts have blocked the 1864 ban, leaving the newer law in place, which could land doctors who violate it with a felony charge and loss of their medical license. 

“Instead of working with Republican lawmakers on the issues that matter to our citizens, like crippling inflation, gas prices, housing costs, public safety and water security, Hobbs is gleefully attempting to circumvent the Legislature,” Shope said in a written statement. “We can’t in good faith be an accomplice to her radical and unlawful agenda.”

In the statement, the senators said they halted all future director nomination committee meetings because they fear that Hobbs might put her cabinet nominees in the untenable position of choosing between following laws already in place in Arizona or her directives that conflict with the law. 

“Katie Hobbs’ reckless abuse of power and willful disregard for the separation of powers established by the Arizona Constitution sets a dangerous precedent that will not be tolerated by the Republican Majority within the Legislature,” Hoffman said in his statement. 

The Committee on Director Nominations had been scheduled to meet Tuesday to consider Hobbs’ appointment of Barbara Richardson as director of the Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions. 

Hoffman said that the committee “was created to honestly, accurately and thoroughly vet directors appointed by the Governor to critical state agencies” so that only qualified and non-partisan people are approved to head state agencies. 

But the nomination hearings so far have been anything but non-partisan. The committee was newly created this year, to vet Hobbs’ appointments and then make recommendations to the Senate on what action to take. Until this year, executive nominees were reviewed by the Senate’s relevant standing committees, typically with little fanfare. 

Hobbs’ initial nominee for director of the Arizona Department of Health Services Dr. Theresa Cullen, the former Pima County director of public health, endured a contentious hearing during which Hoffman accused her of being responsible for an increase in depression and suicide among children because of her choice to close schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hobbs later withdrew her nomination for Cullen to head the department. Her nominee to head the Department of Public Administration was also put on hold because of the nominee’s views on abortion. 

Usually, the legislature closes the session after it passes a budget, which happened this year on May 10. But lawmakers, who are currently on their fifth extended break since January, are set to come back July 31, at least in part in an effort to thwart Hobbs’ ability to appoint agency heads. 

Once the session ends, Hobbs can appoint directors without legislative approval, though they must be confirmed by the Senate within a year of their appointment. 

Hobbs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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