Katie Hobbs chief of staff threatens to veto parental rights, transgender bill

PHOENIX — Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs’s chief of staff said Wednesday that a parental rights bill under consideration by the Arizona state legislature will be vetoed if it hits the governor’s desk.

The proposal, sponsored by Senator John Kavanagh, aims to strengthen parental rights in education as it relates to the transgender debate.

There have been countless reports in recent years of school administrators flouting parental consent by secretly referring to their young students with (so-called) ‘preferred pronouns’ — for example, ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘they,’ and more — that differ from the students’ biological sex. Senate Bill 1001 would prohibit administrators from doing so without the parents’ permission. It would apply to ‘preferred first names’ as well.

Further, Kavanagh’s proposal aims to protect religious freedom by preventing schools from requiring that their employees and contractors refer to students using these alternative descriptors “if doing so is contrary to their convictions.”

Kavanagh told Capitol Media Services that most parents “wouldn’t let their minor child get a tattoo, much less change their gender” and that “those decisions need to be deferred to when an individual’s an adult and can make a mature decision.”

After Senate Bill 1001 advanced through the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, Allie Bones, Hobbs’s chief of staff, said that lawmakers shouldn’t even bother trying.

“The Governor was clear in her State of the State that it’s time to focus on real issues,” Bones tweeted. “Going after LGBTQ kids doesn’t fit the bill. I hope the Legislature doesn’t waste anymore time on this, because it’s DOA.”

The threat from Bones — a former assistant secretary of state whom was hired as chief of staff in November — follows a series of similar veto threats from Hobbs herself.

Families protest Katie Hobbs after threat to defund Arizona’s ESA program

PHOENIX — Families across Arizona gathered in protest in front of the capitol this week after Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs threatened to defund the state’s popular school choice program.

The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program gives parents more influence over their children’s education by allowing them to retain control of their tax dollars and use those dollars however best fits their children’s individual needs. Nearly 46,000 children are now benefiting from it.

Hobbs claimed during her State of the State address earlier this month that ESAs “will likely bankrupt this state” and, a few days later, released a budget proposal that would, if approved, defund the program in its current form. Although Republican lawmakers have already declared the budget provision “dead on arrival,” the governor is pushing forward.

Parents didn’t take that well.

“Is the public school model the only way to educate children, and should children only have access to that by being in that model?” one Mesa mother asked. “It just does not seem like there’s any reason why anybody would be against that ‘education for all’ model” offered by school choice.

Another mother working with Padres Unidos said that “she would, ‘declare war against anybody who wants to tear this program down.’” A local high school student who currently benefits from ESAs emphasized the importance of “being able to access our own tax dollars” that go toward “funding whatever education we need.”

Katie Hobbs hands the reins to teachers union in first State of the State address

PHOENIX — Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs delivered her first State of the State address Monday amid growing tensions with the Arizona state legislature.

The Democrat’s 40-minute address contained a wish-list of public policy items favored by the teachers union, including a clamp-down on Arizona’s popular school-choice program known as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs).

“[T]he previous legislature passed a massive expansion of school vouchers that lacks accountability and will likely bankrupt this state,” Hobbs said.

She claimed that “shady corporations” are “taking advantage of the system and our students” and said “any school that accepts taxpayer dollars should have to abide by the same accountability standards that all district schools do.” The Democrat also called for a repeal of the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL); a reversal of the process that ties education funding to “school letter-grades” and “assessment results”; and a “historic” increase in government spending, such as $40 million “to cover all students regardless of immigration status.”

In December, according to audio/video obtained by StopKatieHobbs.com, Arizona Education Association lobbyist Marisol Garcia acknowledged during a private event that Hobbs had struck a “deal” with the teachers union during her gubernatorial race and that “so far she is living up to that deal.” Garcia and Stephanie Parra, another longtime lobbyist for the teachers union, are both members of the governor’s transition team.

Immediately prior to Monday’s address, the Arizona Freedom Caucus announced the filing of a new lawsuit challenging the governor’s recent executive order, with a pledge of more accountability to come.

VIDEO: Katie Hobbs struck “deal” with teachers union “before we endorsed her”

PHOENIX — A lobbyist for the Arizona Education Association acknowledged Wednesday during a private event that Democratic Governor-elect Katie Hobbs struck a “deal” with the teachers union during her gubernatorial race.

Marisol Garcia, who has been a registered lobbyist for the union since 2016, made the comments at a private “Legislative Preview” event last week, according to audio and video obtained by StopKatieHobbs.com.

Referring to Hobbs as the union’s “ally on the Ninth Floor,” the lobbyist acknowledged that she and her client spoke with the Democrat about their agenda “before we endorsed her” and that “so far she is living up to that deal.” Hobbs recently called for the permanent repeal of the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) and said that funding for the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program would “bust our budget.”

“We have always, always been against any sort of vouchers — not just expansion, but vouchers in essence,” Garcia added during the event.

Other speakers included Democratic Senator Christine Marsh, who described control of the Governor’s Office as “a game-changer” for Democratic lawmakers, and AEA Legislative Liaison Isela Blanc, who said that “having Hobbs” is the “key” to the union’s agenda.

Hobbs herself filmed a special video for the event in which she thanked the union “for everything you did” to elect her. The Democrat named Garcia and Stephanie Parra, a former AEA lobbyist, to her transition team in November.

Katie Hobbs calls for AEL to be “permanently” repealed

PHOENIX — Democratic Governor-elect Katie Hobbs called Wednesday for the permanent repeal of the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL).

Hobbs said during an interview with Arizona PBS that addressing the upcoming AEL deadline is “the most pressing education issue right now.” The AEL is an overall spending threshold that Arizona voters approved via constitutional amendment in 1980 in order to bring more accountability to public district schools.

“If we don’t lift that, schools are going to be faced with having to close early, end the school year early, or lay off teachers, and so we’re not doing anything to address the problem if we don’t get rid of that limit,” the Democrat argued. “Suspend it now, but look at how we repeal it permanently.”

Hobbs also claimed during the interview that she supports “increasing teacher salary to the national average,” despite having voted against a 20 percent raise for Arizona’s teachers while serving in the state legislature.

The governor-elect — who recently named longtime teachers union lobbyists Marisol Garcia and Stephanie Parra to her transition team — is an outspoken opponent of school choice and claimed Wednesday that continuing to provide funding for the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program would “bust our budget.”

Katie Hobbs claims ESA program will “bust our budget,” compares school choice to “Alt-Fuels 2.0”

PHOENIX — Democratic Governor-elect Katie Hobbs voiced her longstanding opposition to Arizona’s school choice program Wednesday.

“I can tell you that the voucher scheme that we have set up is going to end up as an Alt-Fuels 2.0,” Hobbs told Arizona PBS about the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. “It’s going to bust our budget. We can’t afford to do more.”

The comment came in response to a question from anchor Ted Simons about proposals for “increased voucher funding.”

Hobbs recently named longtime teachers union lobbyists Marisol Garcia and Stephanie Parra to her transition team. Garcia has been a registered lobbyist for the Arizona Education Association since 2016, while Parra was a registered lobbyist for the association from 2016 to 2020.