Will Democrats in the Legislature vote to override a veto by a Democratic governor?
A veto override hasn’t happened in Arizona in more than four decades, but Republicans – and at least one Democrat – say they’d support it after Gov. Katie Hobbs nixed a bill that had passed through both chambers of the legislature with a bipartisan supermajority.
It would represent a rebuke to the governor and a symbolic show of the limits of what’s been Hobbs’ most powerful tool this year: her veto pen.
Still, some Democrats who supported the measure previously said they’ll at least reconsider their vote if it would mean rolling over the governor’s veto this week. An override must receive a two-thirds supermajority vote in both chambers to enact a bill into law.
House Bill 2509 would loosen restrictions on sales of homemade food by expanding the definition of so-called cottage foods – homemade products that aren’t subject to Arizona Department of Health Services rules on retail food sales. It would allow some foods that are perishable or require temperature control to be part of the cottage food program.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, and proponents said it would help informal vendors selling products like tamales, tortillas and candies.
The bill passed the Senate 26-4 and the House 45-11. The only “no” votes came from Democrats, but the majority of Democrats in both chambers supported the bill.
Even so, the governor vetoed the measure on Tuesday, saying it would increase the public health risks and could hamper the ability of ADHS to investigate the source of disease outbreaks.
“This bill would significantly increase the risk of food-borne illness by expanding the ability of cottage food vendors to sell high-risk foods,” Hobbs wrote in a veto letter dated April 18.
On Thursday, a spokesman for the governor declined to answer questions about the veto or the prospect of an override but said in a text message that Hobbs is “committed to supporting small businesses while prioritizing the health of everyday Arizonans.”
Grantham indicated that he’ll motion for an override vote and Republican leaders indicated they’ll try to whip votes for the override. If all Republicans in both chambers are in favor of an override, they’ll need nine Democratic votes in the House and four in the Senate to pass the override.
In floor votes on the bill, 14 House Democrats and 10 Senate Democrats voted for the bill. But their calculus could be different after the governor rejected the measure.
Rep. Alma Hernandez, D-Tucson, aired her frustration with the veto on Twitter on Tuesday.
“It makes no sense. People are NOT dying from street food poisoning. This is personal. Not only do many Hispanics depend on this to make a living but many fear being reported and fined,” she wrote.
In a text message on Wednesday, she said she was still thinking about what she would do in a potential override vote.
“I am having conversations with many members right now. I am not sure exactly what we will decide. But I will tell you that we are very disappointed,” she said.
She later told Capitol Media Services that she would vote in favor of an override.
Rep. Marcelino Quiñonez, D-Phoenix, who initially voted for the bill, indicated that he would probably do it again in an override vote.
“I don’t see myself changing my vote on H2509 if it comes back,” he said in a text message on Wednesday. But, Quiñonez added, “I’m grateful every day for our governor. This is just an issue where we don’t agree.”
Sen. Priya Sundareshan, D-Tucson, was more circumspect. She said she’s “not sure yet” how she would vote if the bill comes back for another floor vote.
Sundareshan voted for the bill the first time it came on the Senate floor, but said she’ll have to give it a second look in light of the governor’s veto.
“I was surprised to see the governor’s veto of it, but that must have been for a reason,” she said.
While political rhetoric could be a part of a potential override vote, the fate of the measure will have a concrete impact on the many Arizonans who sell homemade food around the state – at their houses, in parks, or in Home Depot parking lots.
Imelda Hartley, a well-known Phoenix entrepreneur who sells tamales, said the measure would have helped her when she was starting out, selling her products at a 24-hour laundromat to help put food on the table for her family.
At the time, Hartley said, she didn’t have a license and wasn’t aware of state rules surrounding food vendors. (These days, she works out of an established community kitchen making tamales for catering.)
She said the reality is that many Arizonans – most of them Hispanic – are already cooking food at home and selling it, and the bill could provide a pathway for them to move from the informal economy to regularized work.
“Why not provide them with knowledge and resources, so they can come out of hiding?” Hartley said.