Jan 8, 2024 - News

Hobbs lays out agenda for 2024 session

A woman speaking at a podium

Gov. Katie Hobbs delivers her State of the State address yesterday. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

In her second State of the State address since taking Arizona's top office last year, Gov. Katie Hobbs outlined an agenda for the 2024 legislative session focused on water, education, housing and border security.

State of play: Some of the governor's agenda items, like repealing Arizona's pre-statehood abortion ban and increasing regulations on the school voucher-style Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program, are almost certainly dead on arrival due to GOP opposition.

  • Hobbs, a Democrat, pitched other legislative proposals that seem likely to generate less opposition from the Republican majority.
  • Some of her proposals can also be accomplished without legislative approval.

Driving the news: Hobbs last week said she expects water to be the major issue of this year's session, and she made several water bids in her speech.

  • She called for an update to Arizona's 1980 Groundwater Management Act to close loopholes that allow build-to-rent homes and "wildcat" subdivisions, such as Rio Verde Foothills, to skirt the requirement that subdivisions have a 100-year groundwater supply.
  • Hobbs also called for lawmakers to update the law to give rural Arizonans more control over groundwater.
  • The governor said she directed the Arizona Department of Water Resources to implement a new Alternative Designation of Water Resources program to allow subdivisions in areas without a 100-year groundwater supply. This can be done administratively, sans legislative approval.

Context: Last year, the Hobbs administration halted new subdivisions in Buckeye and Queen Creek that rely solely on groundwater.

  • Republican legislators have already called to ease state water regulations to increase Arizona's inadequate housing supply.

Housing: To alleviate the housing crisis, Hobbs proposed state financial assistance to help middle-income and rural Arizonans with down payments and cover interest on their mortgages.

Health care: Hobbs called for several policies to reduce prescription drug prices.

  • She also proposed new restrictions to crack down on problematic long-term living facilities and sober living homes, the latter of which have been in the news over fraudulent facilities and kickback schemes.

Between the lines: Hobbs proposed barring "outrageous" expenditures in the ESA program on things like ski passes and luxury driving courses, and requiring participating students to have attended public school for at least 100 days.

  • House Speaker Ben Toma and other GOP lawmakers have already rejected the notion of increasing regulations on ESAs.

Meanwhile, Hobbs called for additional funding for the border security program she announced last month after the Biden administration closed the port of entry at the border in Lukeville.

What's next: Hobbs will release her executive budget plan on Friday, including proposals for resolving an estimated $400 million shortfall for the current fiscal year and a $450 million deficit for fiscal year 2025.

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