Apr 21, 2023 - Politics

"Tamale bill" vote will need Dems support to override Hobbs veto

Illustration of a hand with a pen about to sign off on a plate of tamales.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

An attempt to override an Arizona governor's veto for the first time in over 40 years will likely come down to whether Democratic lawmakers who supported the legislation the first time are willing to break ranks with a governor from their own party.

Catch up quick: Gov. Katie Hobbs on Tuesday vetoed HB 2509, dubbed the "tamale bill," which would have legalized the sale of perishable home-cooked foods like tamales and empanadas.

  • The governor said in her veto letter that measure would increase the risk of food-borne illness.

State of play: House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci said an override vote is on the chamber's agenda for Tuesday.

  • It takes a two-thirds vote in each chamber to override a veto. The bill had enough Democratic votes in both the House and Senate earlier this month to surpass that mark.

Yes, but: Voting for a bill is one thing. Voting to override the veto of a governor in your party is another.

  • Some Democrats who supported the legislation are hesitant to take such drastic action against a Democratic governor.
  • "I hope they look at the policy and think about their constituents and think less about politics," bill sponsor Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, tells Axios.

Zoom in: Rep. Alma Hernandez, a Tucson Democrat who voted for the bill, is enthusiastically supporting the override attempt.

  • She described the law against selling homemade food as "criminalizing poor people for simply trying to make a living" and says the vetoed bill is especially important to the Hispanic community.
  • As a public health professional, Hernandez says she doesn't believe public safety arguments against the bill.
  • It's "an issue that many of our communities are expecting us to stand up for them. Whether or not it's popular to do within my party, I don't believe that matters in this situation. I think we were elected to do what's right," she says.

The other side: Rep. Marcelino QuiƱonez, one of the Democratic whips, voted for the bill last week, but tells Axios Phoenix he would prefer to run new legislation to address Hobbs' concerns.

  • Rep. Jennifer Longdon, a Phoenix Democrat who also voted for the bill, says it's "an entirely different vote" to override the veto, and said she won't do it.
  • "The majority party, if they shared their party with the executive, they wouldn't be doing this," she says.

Between the lines: Hobbs spokesperson Christian Slater says the governor "is committed to supporting small businesses while prioritizing the health of everyday Arizonans" and says the administration is working with lawmakers to accomplish those goals.

Context: Republicans held supermajorities in both legislative chambers in 2011 and 2012, years in which GOP Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed 29 and 26 bills, respectively.

  • Despite having enough Republicans to override a veto on their own, they never attempted to do so.

Flashback: Arizona's last successful veto override was in 1981, when Republicans had a supermajority in the House and four Democratic senators joined their GOP colleagues to overturn Democratic Gov. Bruce Babbitt's vetoes of legislative and congressional redistricting plans.

  • The last attempt was in 2021, when the Senate overrode Republican Gov. Doug Ducey's veto of a bill that made a handful of technical corrections to state law. House Speaker Rusty Bowers declined to put the override up for a vote in his chamber.

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