Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoes a Republican-backed “skinny budget” proposal on Feb. 16, 2023. Photo courtesy Arizona Governor’s Office
It’s fitting that Gov. Katie Hobbs was given Janet Napolitano’s veto stamp as a gift when she took office.
Over the course of 158 days, Napolitano vetoed 17 bills in 2003 when the GOP-controlled legislature met for the first time in the Democrat’s tenure as governor. In exactly half that time — 79 days — Hobbs has bested that mark, issuing vetoes 17 and 18 on Wednesday, rejecting Republican bills to force banks to open accounts for gun manufacturers and to bar cities from taxing groceries.
Napolitano is the all-time leader for vetoes in Arizona history, notching 202 over her six-plus legislative sessions between 2003 and 2009, including 58 in 2005. (She resigned as governor in late January 2009 to join Barack Obama’s administration.) Those records have seemed insurmountable.
But just like Hank Aaron’s decades-long reign as the home run champion and Roger Maris’ single-season home run record that stood for nearly 40 years, it’s only a matter of time before Napolitano’s veto records fall.
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While the new baseball home run records were fueled by unchecked steroid use and juiced balls designed to fly out of ballparks, Hobbs’ ascent to the top of the veto charts will be driven by the intense focus that modern Republicans have on using the statehouse to wage their culture wars, particularly against long-marginalized communities.
Hobbs and her aides have made clear that she won’t sign any of the numerous anti-LGBTQ bills that Republicans are pushing. And the plethora of bills aimed at punishing teachers and schools are all destined for swift vetoes, as are any number of bills that seek to cut taxes, strip away regulations of businesses and force cities to bend to the will of the legislature.
Many Republicans, particularly those calling the shots in the legislature, are convinced that Hobbs will come out looking like a tyrant as she vetoes their bills. And while that may well be the case in the far-right circles where these lawmakers are cocooned — a place where the people believe Hobbs is an illegitimate governor and where any idea they don’t like is “woke” — it isn’t the case in the real world.
Outside of that right-wing media ecosystem, Arizonans support LGBTQ rights, think banning books is an abhorrent idea and want to increase school funding instead of threatening to throw teachers in prison. Vetoing those bills demonstrates just how out of step Republican lawmakers are with the people they purport to represent.
And Democrats are banking on it. Hobbs has already used her vetoes earlier this year as a fundraising tool, and she has kicked in money to the campaign to flip the legislature to Democratic control in 2024.
National Democrats are also poised to pounce on the one-seat majorities that Arizona Republicans have in both legislative chambers: Arizona is one of three states that will receive intense focus from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee’s $60 million campaign to break GOP control in state capitols.
The Republican plan to govern in 2023 is purely id-driven, focused on grievance politics, attacking marginalized groups and trying to embarrass their opponents. If there was any capacity for self-reflection in the modern GOP, they would realize that they severely underperformed in 2022 because focusing on election conspiracies and declaring everything “woke” not only didn’t resonate with voters, but it actively drove them away.
Instead, Republicans will keep the pedal to the metal on the culture war and continue to send veto fodder to Hobbs.
I have no doubt she’ll eclipse the single-session veto record this year. The only question in my mind is whether she hits 100 vetoes before lawmakers fold up their circus tent later this year.
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