Jan 8, 2024 - News

Republicans push back after Hobbs' speech but see agreements on some issues

Two mean speaking.

House Speaker Ben Toma (left) and Senate President Warren Petersen talk before the address. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

Republican lawmakers largely opposed the proposals in Gov. Katie Hobbs' State of the State address Monday, but some saw areas where the GOP-controlled Legislature and Democratic governor can find common ground.

State of play: Legislative Republicans told Axios Phoenix after the speech they heard things they liked, including regulations for long-term living facilities and sober living homes, and policies on water, health care and border security.

Zoom in: Sen. Frank Carroll, R-Sun City West, said legislation on sober living home regulation will be introduced soon.

  • Rep. Selena Bliss, R-Prescott, told Axios Phoenix she's running bills to address the 100-year water supply and build-to-rent issues that Hobbs raised in her speech, but she criticized the governor for presenting them as her own proposals.

Between the lines: It'll be hard to tell where and how much the two sides can work together until lawmakers learn the details of Hobbs' proposals, House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci told reporters.

  • Rep. David Livingston, R-Peoria, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, questioned how the governor plans to pay for some proposals.

1 big applause line: Accolades almost exclusively came from the Democratic side of the chamber, but two Republicans, Rep. Matt Gress and Sen. Ken Bennett, stood and clapped when Hobbs voiced support for using the reauthorization of a 10-year K-12 funding plan known as Proposition 123 to fund teacher pay raises.

  • Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, stood in support when the governor talked about opening a new medical school at Northern Arizona University and increasing funding for community colleges in rural Arizona.

Yes, but: Hobbs said Prop. 123 renewal should fund pay raises not only for teachers but support staff, which Bennett and Gress said they opposed.

  • Of note: The Legislature doesn't need the governor's signature to refer measures like Prop. 123 to the ballot.
  • However, House Speaker Ben Toma didn't close the door, telling Axios Phoenix, "There's no reason not to talk about it, at least, and we'll see where we end up."

Meanwhile, Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, stood and turned his back when Hobbs began talking about regulating the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program, and he remained standing for the majority of the speech.

What they're saying: "You could just tell that she is going to be facing some headwinds at the Legislature with her agenda," Gress, R-Phoenix, said. "But I think there are going to be some areas where we can work together."

Reality check: Republicans were displeased with Hobbs' insistence on adding restrictions to ESAs.

  • Some also criticized her line about repealing the pre-statehood abortion ban, which could be reinstated depending on how the Arizona Supreme Court rules in a case over which of two conflicting abortion laws should be enforced.
  • "She's back to picking fights she can't win," Toma told Axios.

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