AZ Senate President Warren Petersen (R-LD14) fulfilled his earlier promise, filing a lawsuit against Gov. Hobbs for circumventing state rules on selecting agency heads. The motion before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Mikitish requires the Governor to provide her appointees’ names to the newly formed Committee on Director Nominations, chaired by Sen. Jake Hoffman (R-LD15), by January 12, 2024.
In an article dated September, 26,2023, Arizona Globe reported (https://arizonaglobe.com/governor/az-sens-hoffman-and-peterson-respond-to-gov-hobbs-attempt-to-circumvent-oversight/) that Hobbs made an attempted end-run around Arizona law requiring “the consent of the Senate” for all state-level political appointees, Governor Katie Hobbs has created new “executive deputy director” positions, filling them with the same nominees previously blocked by the Republican-controlled State Senate.
Senator Petersen had previously expressed frustration with the Governor. “We’ve met a few times with the governor’s office (on the issue), but we haven’t made much headway,” Petersen told The Arizona Republic in an interview earlier this month, warning that the lawsuit was ready to drop.
The suit is the latest salvo of the ongoing skirmish between the Senate and the Governor over department vacancies. Thomas Basile, an attorney representing Sen. Peterson, highlights Hobbs’ actions as “illegal.”
“In a fit of political pique, the governor withdrew her nominations for the directorships of 13 agencies that, by law, must be administered by Senate-confirmed appointees,” Basile wrote, arguing that the appointment of temporary “managers” failed to meet the statutory requirement to appoint department heads, rendering the positions technically “vacant.”
Basile continued, “In refusing to nominate agency directors and bypassing the Senate’s advice and consent process, the governor has violated a binding statutory directive, acted in excess of her lawful authority, and failed to perform a nondiscretionary duty.”
Hobbs denies any wrongdoing, stating that Petersen’s viewpoint “does not match my assessment,” adding that she was “disappointed that he spoke publicly about ongoing negotiations” while they were still underway. Among the many sticking points is Hobbs’ insistance that the Senate return to “the old process” she claims was used for decades to confirm nominees. Previousy, an appointee’s related committee was responsible for confirmation rather than a the newly minted Committee on Director Nominations. Hobbs is dissatisfied with Petersen’s hand-picked committee chair, Sen. Jake Hoffman (R-LD15), as the person responsible for stonewalling her nominees.
Christian Slater, Gov. Hobbs’ spokesperson, expressed their frustration. “Extremists like Jake Hoffman would rather engage in partisan attacks to push their radical political agenda than work across the aisle to support veterans, grow jobs and invest in small businesses, and protect Arizona’s children,” he opined.
The Governor concurred. “We’re trying to find a way around this situation, this political circus, quite honestly … that Sen. Hoffman created with this committee, trying to leverage these agency directors for his political agenda,” Hobbs added. “It’s a completely inappropriate misuse of his position in the Senate. And we’re trying to find a way around that.”
Petersen, however, contends that the State law is clear, enumerating, “In no event shall a nominee serve longer than one year after nomination without senate consent.” The Senator advised that he plans to wait to see the results of upcoming meetings with the Governor before filing the lawsuit.
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