Katie Hobbs Has Turned the Governor’s Office Into a Jobs Program for Her Political Friends

Katie Hobbs Has Turned the Governor’s Office Into a Jobs Program for Her Political Friends

For the past three years, the people of Arizona have been forced to deal with the fallout of a struggling economy, rising prices, and an inflation rate that, at one point, was the highest in the country. With this in mind, Republicans got to work, delivering the largest tax cut in state history and following that up with a budget that included tax rebates for Arizona families.

But Governor Katie Hobbs clearly has much different priorities when it comes to your hard-earned money. True to her 10-year history of pulverizing Arizona taxpayers, Hobbs announced during her State of the State address in January her desire to—you guessed it—massively grow the size of state government. And judging by the executive staff hiring spree that Hobbs is on as governor, it’s clear that this isn’t just empty rhetoric.

Last month it was discovered that in just over a year Katie Hobbs has expanded her office staff by approximately 40 employees, a whopping 40% increase over the previous administration. Among these new hires are:

    • Six people working in the newly created Office of Resiliency.
    • Four new employees in the Office of Tribal Relations.
    • Three new in-house attorneys, bringing the total number to four

That’s right. The Arizona Governor’s Office now has six people working on “resiliency,” a department Hobbs created to further push the Green New Deal agenda on our state. What a joke.

So, how much is all this costing Arizona taxpayers? According to the report, in addition to 40 new staffers, the average salary under Hobbs is $10,000 more than it was under former Republican Governor Doug Ducey. All added together, the Katie Hobbs jobs program for her political cronies, paid for by Arizona taxpayers, has increased executive employment costs by over 50%!

In the meantime, Arizona is running a budget deficit while Hobbs tries to scapegoat school choice and our state’s historic tax cuts. But neither of these are the problem. The problem is spending. It’s always been spending.

Just five years ago, the legislature enacted a budget that included $10.1 billion in ongoing spending, plus $500 million in “one-time” expenditures ($10.7 billion total). By FY 2023, that number had exploded to nearly $15 billion in ongoing spending. And while the most recent budget negotiated with Hobbs kept ongoing spending at a lower trajectory, it included “one-time” outlays that brought the total budget cost to $17.8 billion!

But instead of reining in this spending, especially in the midst of our challenging economic times, Hobbs would rather blame tax cuts—ignoring the fact that despite these cuts, tax revenue has continued to climb largely due to the decision in 2019 to start taxing online sales.

Then, there’s Hobbs’ favorite target—the wildly popular Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. Hobbs and her buddies in the teachers’ unions will tell you that ESAs are costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars and diverting funds from district schools. But the reality is the opposite. ESAs represent only a tiny fraction of all K-12 school spending, and taxpayers actually save money when a parent decides to leave a district school for a charter or private school. On top of that, what Hobbs and the teachers’ unions won’t tell you is that Arizona taxpayers are giving district schools more money than ever before. In fact, public school funding has soared to $15K per student, up from $10K just five years ago. Now, according to the Chief Financial Officer for the Arizona Department of Education, our state’s public schools have over $1 billion in surplus.

If Hobbs really cares about making sure Arizona is “resilient,” she would start by making sure that the people of our state keep more money in their wallets. But she’ll never do that. Hobbs would rather flex her power as governor to create a multi-million-dollar program so her political friends can do phony baloney jobs and reverse the policies that have positioned our state as the envy of much of the nation. Now, it’s up to lawmakers to make sure the next state budget keeps her in check.

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The Resignation of Gilbert’s Digital Government Chief Is a Big Victory for Independent Media

The Resignation of Gilbert’s Digital Government Chief Is a Big Victory for Independent Media

Government leaders must be held accountable. That’s supposed to be the job of the mainstream media. But somewhere along the line, this changed. Many journalists employed by traditional corporate media started to twist facts to drive home a particular narrative. Others began disguising their own opinions as news. And some just stopped doing any real investigations altogether—choosing to protect our elected officials and government bureaucrats from any sort of real accountability.

Now, with fewer people trusting in the mainstream media, our nation has seen a rise in independent news media. We have a great one right here in Arizona called AZ Free News that has shown it is willing to do real research and investigation into what is happening in our state. And their latest investigative report shows exactly why independent journalism is critical for the future of our state and nation.

AZ Free News Exposes Gilbert’s Orwellian Office of Digital Government

In January, AZ Free News released an investigative report on the Town of Gilbert’s Office of Digital Government (ODG). For over a decade, the ODG, which is made up of approximately a dozen employees, has been working to ensure that Gilbert’s 30 official digital accounts—along with the personal online posts of all Town of Gilbert employees—align with a progressive, liberal agenda.

This concerted effort to control conservative speech costs Gilbert taxpayers $1.1 million each year in salary alone with Chief Digital Officer Dana Berchman making over $200,000 annually.

When asked about the allegations in the investigative report, the town doubled down on its censorship efforts, stating that it “will not tolerate divisive, offensive or culturally insensitive posts from employees purporting to represent the Town.” But as we so often see with leftist government bureaucrats: “Rules for thee, but not for me.” After all, Berchman, who interned for Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate Campaign, regularly used her personal social media profiles to promote then-presidential candidate Joe Biden while urging people to vote out then-President Donald Trump.

How is that not divisive? Shouldn’t Dana Berchman be held accountable for her online speech just like the rest of the Town of Gilbert’s employees?

As a devout leftist, Berchman probably figured she could get away with it, but after the AZ Free News report exposed her hypocrisy, she decided to hide, making her Twitter profile private to avoid any further backlash. (Katie Hobbs would be proud.)

But the damage was already done.

Gilbert’s Chief Digital Officer Resigns

In response to the AZ Free News report, Gilbert residents flooded the next town council meeting to demand justice for the ODG’s First Amendment violations. And later in the meeting, Councilman Jim Torgeson proposed that the council review the mission, purpose, and future existence of ODG. That review is set to take place on March 5. But it will no longer affect Dana Berchman.

Why?

Because earlier this week, Berchman emailed her resignation to the town council, effective March 7. And while the now-former head of Gilbert’s ODG didn’t specifically cite the pending town council review, it is interesting timing, isn’t it?

This is certainly great news for Gilbert residents, but it also shows the importance of real independent journalism. Had it not been for the investigation and reporting of AZ Free News, the town’s citizens would’ve been kept in the dark about this blatant government overreach. But armed with this information, the people were able to push back and hold their government accountable.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

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We’re Suing Adrian Fontes for His Illegal Elections Procedures Manual

We’re Suing Adrian Fontes for His Illegal Elections Procedures Manual

If Adrian Fontes likes spending time in court, he’s going to have a fun time in 2024. In case you’ve lost count, Arizona’s Secretary of State has been sued three times over his Elections Procedures Manual (EPM) in just the last two weeks. That’s what happens when you produce one of the most radical EPMs in Arizona’s history.

At the end of January, Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma filed a lawsuit against Fontes over a variety of provisions in his EPM that violate or conflict with current election laws in our state. But the party was just getting started.

Last week, the Arizona Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, and the Yavapai County GOP also sued Fontes for his blatant attempt to rewrite election law through his EPM. And on the same day, we filed our own lawsuit against Fontes over the promulgation of certain unlawful rules set forth in his EPM.

The reality is that, in his role as Secretary of State, Adrian Fontes is supposed to provide an EPM that gives impartial direction to county recorders to ensure uniform and correct implementation of election law. Instead, he prescribed certain rules without the power to do so and moved forward with an EPM that contains several “rules” that are unconstitutional.

The EPM Places Protected Political Speech at Risk of Criminal Prosecution

Several rules in Fontes’ EPM criminalize activity that is protected under the First Amendment—creating an unconstitutional chilling effect on protected political speech. One portion of the EPM states that the “County Recorder or officer in charge of elections may restrict activities that interfere with the ability of voters and/or staff to access the ballot drop-off locations free from obstruction or harassment.”

To the average person, that probably seems reasonable, until you realize that according to the EPM, voter intimidation or harassment includes:

    • Staying within 75 feet of a ballot drop box to simply monitor individuals who are delivering ballots.
    • Following individuals delivering ballots to the drop box.
    • Speaking to an individual who is returning ballots to a drop box and is within 75 feet of that drop box.

Monitoring drop boxes? Speaking to people? How can any of this be considered voter intimidation or harassment? But the EPM isn’t done yet. It also bans photographing or videotaping at election sites! But these activities—watching drop boxes, speaking to people at election sites, and photographing activity at election sites—all constitute forms of speech and are protected under the First Amendment.

The EPM Requires Arizona Political Parties to Open Their Primaries to Federal Only Voters

If deliberate violations of the First Amendment aren’t bad enough, Fontes’ EPM contradicts statutory requirements and exceeds statutory authority by opening the Presidential Preference Election to federal only voters. Arizona law is clear that any person who has registered to vote but has not provided acceptable evidence of citizenship is not eligible to vote in presidential elections. That certainly includes the Presidential Preference Election. But as you might expect, Fontes fails to cite anything that gives him the authority to establish such a provision. Instead, he is bypassing Arizona’s stricter voter registration requirements to essentially create a new law out of whole cloth.

If the illegal provisions in this manual are allowed to stand, the integrity and transparency of Arizona’s elections would continue to dissipate at the hands of leftwing ideologues. That’s exactly why the Free Enterprise Club, in collaboration with our friends at the America First Policy Institute and Grand Canyon Legal Center, filed this critical lawsuit. The people of Arizona deserve free, fair, transparent, and lawful elections. Now, it’s up to the courts to see through Fontes’ agenda and force him to adhere to state law.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

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Arizonans Must Protect Their Gas Devices From Extreme Government Mandates

Arizonans Must Protect Their Gas Devices From Extreme Government Mandates

“Do as we say, and not as we do.” That is typically how it goes with government. In this case, the “do as we say” means you giving up your gas stoves and cars. The “not as we do,” well, the Vice President of the United States still openly enjoys her very own gas stove, and don’t expect the President to give up Air Force One or his large fleet of gas limousines and cars anytime soon. Also, you probably shouldn’t sit in anticipation for the activists to give up the private jets they fly into climate conferences to scheme about how to limit your access to gas devices, or their yachts. Remember, it’s do as we say, not as we do.

Normally, the left will try to hide and subvert their goals. That’s what they did with their efforts to ban gas stoves: have the media tell everyone it was a conspiracy theory, and that no one wanted to take them, meanwhile having several agencies draft complicated rules to basically regulate them out of existence. Now, however, they have become more emboldened to just come right out and say it: we are coming for your gas cars.

Seriously, at least 25 countries have already announced or enacted bans on gas cars. Here in the U.S., California took the lead to ban the sale of gas cars by 2035 through regulatory fiat (no vote of the legislature, no signature of the governor, just one regulatory board passing one regulation), and at least a dozen have since followed suit.

Don’t think Arizona is in the clear either. After Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found Maricopa County to be in “noncompliance” with the Clean Air Act’s ozone standards, the bureaucracy tasked with developing solutions to lower emissions basically produced a carbon copy of the California plan to ban gas cars, gas stoves, gas leaf blowers, and other lawn equipment, among hundreds of other draconian ideas.

If they don’t submit a new plan to the EPA soon, the federal government might come in to foist a federal plan on us anyway. Plus, right now they are considering new tailpipe emission standards that would effectively result in a ban on gas cars, which has been opposed by nearly 5,000 car dealerships across the country as well as several national and local organizations.

That’s why HCR2050, introduced by Representative Gail Griffin and co-sponsored by 30 of her colleagues in the House, is one of the most important measures this session. If passed by the legislature and approved by the voters in November, it would amend the constitution to prohibit the government from restricting the use, sale, or manufacturing of devices based on the energy source. In other words, no gas stove bans, and no gas car bans.

It should go without saying, but banning gas devices would be catastrophic. Every step of the way, gas devices are used to manufacture and to transport goods. An outright ban would inflate all of these costs and deprive Arizonans of their right to own and use them.

Additionally, the US grid isn’t even close to being able to support the forced total electrification being pushed by the left. Rates would skyrocket, and at the same time, reliability would plummet. Need to travel in the snow? If your power was miraculously still on when you left, good luck relying on your electric vehicle to provide heat and still have the range to make it to your destination. And kiss goodbye air conditioning on a 115-degree August day in Arizona.

The truth is that these ideas are dangerous and would create a real public health crisis in Arizona, not the made up one to fearmonger against the use of energy sources, including fossil fuels, that have led to immense human flourishing and saved countless lives.

That’s why other state legislatures have started pushing back. Last year, the Wisconsin legislature passed, with a strong coalition in support, AB 141, by a 2-1 vote, to prevent discrimination based on energy source. Unfortunately, it was vetoed by their governor, who said it would diminish their “ability to help combat climate change.”

Now, Arizona has a unique opportunity to lead on the issue. Lawmakers can and should swiftly pass HCR2050 this session so that voters can protect their devices from misguided, unpopular, and dangerous energy discrimination, and be free from infringement from federal, state, or local governments to use the stoves, cars, and equipment of their choice.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.

Free Enterprise Club Files Lawsuit Against Adrian Fontes for His Illegal Elections Procedures Manual

Free Enterprise Club Files Lawsuit Against Adrian Fontes for His Illegal Elections Procedures Manual

PHOENIX, ARIZONA –The Arizona Free Enterprise Club filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Adrian Fontes over the promulgation of certain unlawful rules set forth in the latest Elections Procedures Manual (EPM) in December 2023. The legal challenge was filed in the Superior Court of the State of Arizona for the County of Maricopa.

“Secretary Fontes has produced one of the most radical elections procedures manuals in our state’s history,” said Scot Mussi, President of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. “If the illegal provisions of this manual are allowed to stand, the integrity and transparency of state elections would continue to dissipate at the hands of leftwing ideologues. We hope the court agrees with our arguments and forces the Secretary to adhere to state law.”

According to the complaint, the 2023 EPM improperly places protected political speech at risk of criminal prosecution and has an unconstitutional chilling effect on protected political speech. The 2023 EPM also contradicts statutory requirements and exceeds statutory authority by opening the Presidential Preference Election to federal only voters, in essence, creating a new law out of whole cloth.

There are three counts for causes of action regarding the EPM. The first deals with speech. The second with free association. And the third with vagueness.

The Plaintiff asks the court to strike down the provisions challenged in this action that contradict or exceed statutory authority.

Read the challenge here.