Hobbs vetoes bills to bar ranked-choice voting, criminalize immigrant aid groups
Republican proposals to ban ranked-choice voting and criminalize immigrant aid organizations were blocked on Wednesday by Gov. Katie Hobbs, who wielded her veto stamp to add five more vetoes to her growing tally.
House Bill 2552 sought to outlaw ranked-choice voting in Arizona, despite the fact that it isn’t used anywhere in the Grand Canyon State. The measure was a priority for the legislature’s far-right Arizona Freedom Caucus, whose members vehemently oppose an effort by voter organizations to put the voting style on the 2024 ballot.
Critics accused lawmakers of attempting to preserve the current highly partisan voting environment they succeed in by tying the hands of Arizonans who might, in the future, seek to experiment with different voting methods.
In her veto letter, Hobbs pointed out that ranked-choice is used successfully in other states, and called the bill an unnecessary effort, given that it doesn’t yet exist in Arizona.
But the voting method may yet be banned in Arizona: Republican lawmakers have already approved legislation amending the state constitution to bar any attempt to implement ranked-choice voting anywhere in the state, even at the local level. Voters will decide the measure’s fate in 2024.
Hobbs has now vetoed 48 bills this year, just 10 shy of the record 58 bills that Janet Napolitano — the state’s last Democratic governor — rejected in 2005.
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Also vetoed was House Bill 2754, which added non-governmental organizations to the list of “enterprises” that can be held criminally responsible if they participate in human smuggling. Hobbs warned the bill was likely to jeopardize the efforts of immigrant aid organizations and does nothing to actually address the issue of human smuggling.
“This bill has unintended consequences for organizations that support immigrants,” Hobbs wrote in explaining her veto. “Human smuggling and trafficking is a serious issue that deserves our attention and I implore the legislature to…find better solutions.”
Ashley Chambers, the executive director of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, which opposed the bill, agreed, saying that simply trying to aid migrants would be at risk of punishment.
“Our concern is that individuals only offering help to prevent death and despair, could now be charged as criminals,” she said, in an email.
Several immigrant aid organizations are nonprofits that help transport migrants elsewhere, including the Regional Center for Border Health in Yuma, which buses migrants and asylum seekers to Phoenix and across the country so that they may better reach their host families while they await a court hearing. The organization first partnered with the state and the governor’s office during Doug Ducey’s administration to bus asylum seekers to Washington D.C. as a political statement, and Hobbs has shifted the program to better meet the needs of asylum seekers by transporting them directly to their destinations.
House Bill 2675, that aimed to classify drug cartels as terrorist organizations, was also rejected by Hobbs, who said the measure’s demands are not within the purview of the state.
“Labeling drug cartels as terrorist organizations to deploy state resources is not a real solution and is not a state function,” she wrote. “Under current state law, ‘terrorist organization’ means any organization that is designated by the United States department of state as a foreign terrorist organization.”
The bill was spurred by recent spikes in fentanyl cases in Arizona, which Republicans have weaponized to advocate for harsher border policies. A similar proposal at the national level, prompted by the kidnapping of four American medical tourists by cartel members, was dismissed as political posturing, given that it wouldn’t grant the country any more significant power to curtail cartel activity than it already has and would instead prove detrimental to its relationship with Mexico.
Other vetoes included Senate Bill 1236, which hoped to prohibit any cities from taxing people using blockchain technology, often used to store data, and Senate Bill 1251, which would have prevented cities and towns from restricting rodeos or working animals in agriculture or on ranches, despite the fact that the sponsor admitted such policies and ordinances don’t exist anywhere in Arizona.
Hobbs also approved seven bills on Tuesday, among them House Bill 2498, giving Arizonans on the national Do-Not-Call registry relief from unsolicited text messages as well as phone calls, and House Bill 2564, which allows hospitals to dispense a 12-hour supply of opioids when they’re situated more than 50 miles away from a pharmacy.
Other bills that earned her signature were:
- House Bill 2589, allowing military members who received emergency medical training to be granted certification as an emergency medical care technician.
- Senate Bill 1176, giving licensed medical professionals like nurses and surgeons the right to request a court keep their personal information, like their voting record, address and phone number, confidential.
- Senate Bill 1603, directing all hospitals in the state to comply with federal hospital price transparency regulations and mandates that the Department of Health Services post an annual report on its website with the names of noncompliant hospitals.
- Senate Bill 1294, requiring the Department of Public Safety to make information on the agency’s sex offender website available to an internet communication service or safety organization approved by the agency.
- Senate Bill 1650 updates statutes around the Arizona Auditor General’s office to help them be more in harmony with state and federal laws and auditing standards, including having better access to the employees of entities being audited and moving its own financial and compliance audits from occurring every two years to become an annual responsibility.