Arizona Freedom Caucus says will file lawsuit challenging Hobbs’ first executive order

Arizona Freedom Caucus says will file lawsuit challenging Hobbs’ first executive order

Hoffman, Freedom Caucus, Hobbs, anti-discrimination, Republicans, Democrats, litigation, Department of Administration
Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, chairman of the Arizona Freedom Caucus, surrounded by members of the caucus, says Monday the group will sue to overturn Katie Hobbs’ executive order extending the scope of anti-discrimination protections that govern state employees and contractors. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Update: Adds reaction from Gov. Katie Hobbs in the last paragraph.

The Arizona Freedom Caucus announced it would be filing a lawsuit challenging Gov. Katie Hobbs’ first executive order barring discrimination in hiring practices.

Caucus leaders claim Hobbs is illegally legislating to, “advance her woke agenda,” by issuing executive orders.

Republican lawmakers gathered outside the Senate building today to announce the impending litigation. Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, chairman of the caucus, said the lawsuit will target Hobbs’ use of executive orders, claiming it is “unconstitutional.”

He also affirmed the caucus’s commitment to a combative approach to Hobbs’ administration.

“We will stand in her way at every step of the process as she continues to enact constitutional illegal executive orders to try and rule over the state,” Hoffman said. “The Arizona Freedom Caucus will oppose Katie Hobbs’ woke agenda; you can bet your ass that will happen.”

The lawsuit will center on an order issued by Hobbs on Jan 2., which directs the Department of Administration to establish procedures to ensure hiring practices within state agencies are “on the basis of merit and qualifications.”

Arizona’s employment discrimination law already bars employers from excluding or expelling a person based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion or creed, age, physical or mental disabilities or pregnancy.

The order issued by Hobbs stretches to include sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military service or veteran status and marital status in hiring among state agencies.

Hobbs also directed the Department of Administration to include the language in all state contracts going forward.

Hobbs’ anti-discrimination doctrine is nothing new. Former Gov. Janet Napolitano issued an executive order in 2003 barring state agencies from discriminating based on sexual orientation.

And former Gov. Jan Brewer, in an executive order, affirmed anti-discrimination practices apply to government contractors.

Hoffman, though, said Hobbs has acted out of turn in issuing her executive order. He said it defies the protected statuses passed by the legislature and their intent was never to include extra provisions in those classes.

“She believes that she has the ability to legislate with the power of the pen, attempting to create law that simply does not exist,” Hoffman said.

Hobbs, governor, Arizona Freedom Caucus, antidiscrimination, Department of Administration, Hoffman, Republicans, Democrats, executive order
Gov. Katie Hobbs stands on the balcony of her office on the 9th floor of the Executive Tower on Jan. 4, 2023. She talked to the Arizona Capitol Times about her goals for the upcoming session that day. (Photo by Gary Grado/Arizona Capitol Times)

Hoffman denied the litigation would be about the content of the executive order itself and more so about the new governor’s use of executive orders.

He ended his remarks by saying the caucus will “defend all of the people we represent,” and repeated many of the criteria included in Hobbs’ order.

“It does not matter your race, it does not matter your income, it does not matter your gender, your ethnicity, your national origin, it does not matter what your sexual preference is,” Hoffman said.

The caucus portended a filing in the coming days and did not comment on who would be taking the case.

Hobbs responded to the litigation efforts by the caucus.

“My door is open to working with legislators who are interested in finding common ground and real solutions to the issues confronting our state,” she said. “There will always be attempts like this to obstruct that effort. It’s not going to distract us.”