May 23, 2023 - Politics

Committee will hear backlog of Hobbs' agency director nominees

Photo illustration of Katie Hobbs with lines radiating from her.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

With the budget completed, the backlog of Gov. Katie Hobbs' nominees to run various state agencies will get confirmation hearings while the Legislature is on an extended break.

Context: About two dozen of Hobbs' nominees for agency directors and committees that require Senate confirmation have been cooling their heels for much of the session.

State of play: Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, who chairs the Senate Committee on Director Nominations, told Axios that he plans to hold two or three hearings before the House and Senate reconvene on June 12.

  • Hobbs' nominees to run the departments of Corrections, Housing, and Administration, among others, have yet to receive confirmation hearings.
  • Hoffman said he put off additional hearings until the "heavy lift" of passing the state budget is done.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet Thursday for confirmation hearings on two of the governor's judicial commission nominees.

Why it matters: Executive nominees can serve only one year without Senate confirmation.

Between the lines: Hobbs told reporters last week that she didn't include confirmation as part of budget negotiations with GOP legislative leadership.

  • "I did not say we didn't ask. I just said at the end of the day it wasn't on the table and we're having separate conversations about that."
  • Hoffman told Axios he was surprised there wasn't a "concerted effort" to get them confirmed through budget talks.

The intrigue: Committee hearings and floor votes for gubernatorial appointees are usually mundane affairs, but with a Democrat on the 9th Floor for the first time in 14 years, Senate Republicans have played political hardball and subjected Hobbs' nominees to unusually high scrutiny.

  • Traditionally, director nominees go before relevant, pre-existing committees for confirmation, but Senate President Warren Petersen created Hoffman's committee earlier this year to vet all proposed agency heads.
  • The committee's recommendation against approval for Hobbs' nominee to lead the Arizona Department of Health Services led to her withdrawal by the governor and rejection by the full Senate, while her nominee to run the Department of Administration was put on hold.

What they're saying: Hobbs spokesperson Christian Slater told Axios that Republicans have been "more interested in playing political games than addressing housing affordability, protecting the healthcare of one in three Arizonans, and supporting our veterans," and failing to move forward with confirmations is "irresponsible and a disservice" to the voters.

The other side: Hoffman said he's following through on the Senate's promise to conduct thorough and honest vetting of Hobbs' nominees, and "no amount of petulance or name calling will deter us from this important work."

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