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Senate committee recommends rejecting Hobbs' pick to lead housing department

Of the dozens of nominees Gov. Katie Hobbs has put forward to lead state agencies, the state Senate has confirmed only a handful. Now, the committee that vets those nominees wants the Senate to reject Hobbs’ pick to direct the state’s housing department. 

Joan Serviss was the longtime leader of the affordable housing advocacy nonprofit, Arizona Housing Coalition. She has been directing Arizona's Department of Housing since January but will need Senate approval to remain in the role. Her nomination comes as homelessness is rising statewide and lawmakers have budgeted for  historic spending to address the issue.

Homelessness organizations, veterans groups and developers spoke in Serviss’ favor during her nomination hearing Thursday. But committee chair, Republican Sen. Jake Hoffman, questioned Serviss’ ability to lead independently.

“I think that Katie Hobbs is looking for a yes woman, someone who is just going to rubber stamp whatever Hobbs’ agenda is and not push back," Hoffman said.

Hoffman pointed out several letters Serviss had submitted to the state Legislature during her long career as an affordable housing advocate where language exactly matched wording found in other sources. Hoffman called it plagiarism. Serviss said it was simply part of the job.

“A common practice among advocacy organizations was to utilize templates to submit a shared chorus of support or concern on policy priorities," Serviss said. 

In a 3-2 party-line vote, the committee recommended the Senate reject Serviss’ nomination. The full Senate won’t be back in session until January.

→  Arizona Sen. Jake Hoffman says he won't restart nominee hearings without these assurances

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.