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Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen on navigating a divided government

This year’s legislative session was the first with divided government in Arizona in more than a decade. It also turned out to be the longest session in state history.

The Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Katie Hobbs did make some bipartisan deals, including the budget and referring an extension of Proposition 400 to the ballot, so Maricopa County voters can decide whether or not to extend the county’s transportation sales tax. At the same time, Hobbs also set a record this year for the number of vetoes issued.

Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen, a Gilbert Republican, joined The Show to talk about this past session and look ahead to the next one.

Hear Senate President Warren Petersen's extended interview

warren-petersen-mb-show-20230907.mp3

Senate will soon start to vet agency director nominees again

Petersen told The Show he instructed the Committee on Director Nominations to resume hearings on Gov. Katie Hobbs’ nominees to lead state agencies.

“I’ve told them that they need to hold hearings,” Petersen said. “They are going to hold hearings, we’ll have some coming up here. We’ll have hearings throughout the interim, and any of those that are recommended for approval, early next session we can take care of those.”

In a clash with Hobbs, Republican Sen. Jake Hoffman has refused to vet her nominees since June.

That’s when Hoffman canceled a planned hearing of the Committee on Director Nominations, citing his displeasure with her executive actions — like an order to allow gender-affirming care for state employees and an order consolidating the power to prosecute doctors who perform abortions under Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat.

Hoffman said in June he won’t hold any more hearings unless Hobbs rescinds executive orders that he takes issue with.

But a spokesperson for Senate Republicans confirmed that Hoffman is now working to schedule new hearings, even though Hobbs never met his demands.

Hoffman could not immediately be reached for comment.

There’s a long list of nominees to lead state agencies that the Senate has yet to consider. And without Senate confirmation, their status as agency directors would be in limbo in 2024 – nominees can only serve up to a year after their appointment by the governor without Senate approval.

KJZZ's Ben Giles contributed to this report.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.