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Arizona Gov. Hobbs publicly sworn in at State Capitol

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Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, center, makes public remarks at the State Capitol in Phoenix on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. Behind Hobbs are Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and State Treasurer Kimberly Yee.

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs offered Thursday to work with Republicans even as she warned them that some ideas and items are off limits and essentially would be courting vetoes.

"Let me say unequivocally to every elected official here today that if you're ready to make read progress on the issues that matter most to the people of this state, then my door is always open,'' the new governor said in her inaugural speech.

Hobbs then detailed what she said are her priorities, some of which may not find that common ground she says she seeks.

And near the top of that list, she said, is "to defend reproductive freedom and women's rights.''

Hobbs no longer needs to fulfill a campaign promise to call a special legislative session to repeal a law that dates back to territorial days that outlaws all abortions except to save the life of the mother. The state Court of Appeals ruled last month that was superseded by a 2022 measure allowing doctors to perform the procedure through the 15th week of pregnancy.

And with Thursday's speech, she sent the message that efforts to repeal that more permissive law would go nowhere if and when they reach her desk.

But Hobbs in her campaign has staked out a broader position, seeking to return the law to the way it was in Arizona before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the historic Roe v. Wade decision which said women have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy at least through the point of fetal viability, generally considered to be 22 to 24 weeks.

That, however, is unlikely to find a majority at the Legislature. Hobbs, aware of that, has said she would support a 2024 ballot initiative to accomplish the same goal.

The other priority she emphasized is safeguarding elections. That comes after years of GOP lawmakers, often backed by Doug Ducey, her predecessor, have sought to impose new restrictions ranging from additional voter identification requirements to mandating hand counts of ballots, all in the name of election security.

Hobbs had a particular message for proponents of not just those measures but others ideas that she finds unacceptable.

"Let me also says just as clearly that chasing conspiracy theories, pushing agenda for special interests, attacking the rights of your fellow Arizonans, or seeking to further undermine our democracy will lead nowhere,'' she said.

Hobbs also called on lawmakers to "invest in public schools and finally provide the support our students, teachers and parents deserve.''

While the GOP controlled legislature recently approved additional funding for K-12 education, it also enacted a program of universal vouchers, allowing any student to get taxpayer funds to attend private or parochial schools. And some lawmakers already are asking for more dollars.

Other priorities -- many expressed in more generic terms -- may find a better reception at the House and Senate. These include:

- creating good paying jobs;
- supporting public safety in all communities;
- providing access to safe and affordable housing;
- securing Arizona's water future;
- protecting forest and public lands.

The new governor also had an agenda item that could find bipartisan support. She wants to "hold Washington accountable for our broken immigration system and its devastating impact on families and communities.''

But Hobbs provided no details of what she believes that means, either in terms of border protection -- something she has previously said is not the job of the state -- or as far as providing for work opportunities for migrants or creating a path to citizenship for "dreamers,'' youngsters who arrived in this country illegally and, under a directive from former President Barack Obama, have been allowed to stay and work but with no clear law about their status.

Hobbs also said the state needs "to recognize that too many families are struggling to afford the rising costs of essentials like groceries, gas and rent.''

"I know firsthand how families feel when they work hard all week and still come up short, how it feels to have to work a second and third job to make ends meet, how it feels to lose your home to foreclosure, how it feels to grow up in a family that relies on food stamps or other assistance just to get by,'' she said.

Her speech, however, proposed no specific ideas to address that, leaving open the possibility there will be more when she gives her first State of the State speech on Monday.

Hobbs also said the election outcome "represents a new chapter in the story of our beloved state.''

"You embraced the challenge before us and rejected those who seek to divide, to pit Arizonan against Arizonan, community against community,'' she said. "Instead, you sent a message that it's time your elected officials worked together to find real solutions and to build an Arizona for everyone.''

And she spoke particularly of her victory over Republican Kari Lake, albeit by only about 17,000 votes.

"You, the people of Arizona, gave me a clear directive: find common ground, work with people and not political parties, and embrace the challenges that stand before us,'' Hobbs said.

"I pledge to you that I will not forget this charge because, just like you, I see challenge as opportunity,'' she continued. "It's not always going to be easy, but just like Arizona, I never back down from a tough fight.''