Arizona Sen. Jake Hoffman says he won't restart nominee hearings without these assurances

By Mark Brodie
Published: Thursday, June 29, 2023 - 12:58pm
Updated: Friday, June 30, 2023 - 11:47am

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The chair of the Arizona Senate committee, created this year to hear all of the governor’s nominees to lead state agencies, canceled a meeting earlier this week.

It had been scheduled to hear from the nominee for the Arizona Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions. The move came in response to the governor’s executive order from late last week consolidating abortion prosecutions in Arizona under the Attorney General’s Office.

In a letter to the governor, the three Republicans on the committee call the order a “blatant disregard for the separation of powers,” and say they’re putting a pause on all further nominations until they get a meeting with the governor’s administration to talk about this.

Jake Hoffman.
Arizona State Senate
Jake Hoffman.

The Show spoke with Arizona Sen. Jake Hoffman, who chairs the Committee on Director Nominations and also leads the Arizona Freedom Caucus, about what he needs to hear from the governor to restart hearings for nominees.

Interview highlights

Sen. Jake Hoffman's reaction to Gov. Katie Hobbs' executive order from last week.

Well, I think the most offensive part of, not just this most recent set of executive orders, but the majority of the executive orders that Katie Hobbs has issued so far, since having been sworn in, is her blatant disregard for the law, her blatant disregard for separation of powers that's enshrined within our Constitution. Those are really the fundamental elements that are at play here. Right? The governor doesn't just get to create new law via executive order. That's something that even Joe Biden has said only dictators do. And so I don't think it's a good look for our state to have a governor who's trying to emulate that model.

You sent a letter to the governor, after her last executive order dealing with abortion prosecutions, saying that you were putting a pause on on hearing nominees in the committee that you chair pending a meeting with her administration so big. Is the meeting with her that you're looking for or somebody from her administration?

Well, I think, you know, it's President Pro Tempore TJ Shope, Senate Majority Whip Sine Kerr and myself all put out a statement and a letter requesting this meeting. The reality is that we need to be able to have a conversation before the three of us are comfortable resuming the nominations process and resuming confirmation hearings for her nominees. We need to be comfortable that one, she's going to rescind the unconstitutional maneuver she's already done. But two, that we won't have further infringements on legislative power, that she won't continue to overreach and overstep her legal authority, you know, in the future, right, we have to ensure that the the directives, as I mentioned, that are given to those nominees, once they are confirmed, are going to be consistent with the statutory requirements of those agencies.

Short of her rescinding the executive order, no more nominees?

Well, I think at this time, what we're saying is we've put a pause on it, because we need to make sure that there's balance in our government, we need to make sure that we're putting out reasonable policy, that the executive branch is reasonably implementing the laws of the state, and that there isn't an outside political agenda that's being pushed. And unfortunately, what we're seeing is really the amount of PR stunts designed to, I think, pander to her base. If you look at Katie Hobbs' track record thus far since assuming office, it's rather abysmal. It's been marked with, you know, historically high turnover and senior staff, largely chaos and instability in terms of the executive branch of our government. And so these nominees will be incredibly important and ensuring that they are the right people who are just interested in doing the hard work of the people in a nonpartisan way. That's really our ultimate goal.

If this pause continues for, let's say, another week, two weeks, however long, is it worth it to keep the session open? Given that the Senate was basically keeping it open to continue this work? 

Well, you know, the Legislature is supposed to act as a check and balance on the executive branch. That is a very important, constitutionally mandated role that the legislative branch plays, and so to adjourn, may or may not be the right move. That's not something that I can unilaterally decide. That's something that the entire Senate has to decide and the House has to concur with. But the reality is that we do have a role to play right now, in making sure that Katie Hobbs doesn't violate the law or at least reduces the number of times that she is violating the law.

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