Hobbs “cottage foods” veto sparks ire from both parties, override eyed

Among Gov. Katie Hobbs’ most recent vetoes was a bipartisan measure that would have expanded an existing program that allows citizens to produce foods for sale out of their home kitchens.

Arizona already has a successful regulatory framework for cottage food producers managed by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Under current statute, many home-cooked food products like baked goods, coffee beans, and jams, are approved foods to be sold by registered, trained cottage food producers. Most of the nearly 15,000 registered producers in Arizona are single mothers or families who feed their communities for added income on the side of their other responsibilities.

The bill, HB 2509, would have expanded the definition of “cottage foods” to include foods that require time or temperature controls for safety. Those who violate current laws by selling these kinds of products run the risk of facing up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

In her letter explaining her veto to House Speaker Ben Toma, R-Peoria, Hobbs claimed the measure would “significantly increase the risk of food-borne illness” because “high-risk” foods that are temperature-sensitive, like tamales, have the potential to spoil. She warned of the dangers of hazardous chemicals, illness, and infestation in the homes where local families live and prepare food to make ends meet.

Many Arizona legislators disagreed with this assessment.

“This bill expands an existing program that’s been in place since 2010. It’s a good program that allows good people to produce good products at home safely. This bill will not make this a more reckless or more invasive process,” bill sponsor Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, said.

Opposition to the veto didn’t just come from Republicans, however.

“As a public health professional, I am VERY disappointed to see that a bipartisan bill allowing Arizonans to make an honest living by selling things like tamales, tortillas, and sweets legally was vetoed,” said Alma Hernandez, D-Tucson, in a tweet Wednesday night. “It makes no sense. People are NOT dying from street food poising. This is personal. Not only do many Hispanics depend on this to make a living but many fear being reported and fined. When my father was injured and could not work, my mother made cakes from home to ensure we could put gas and food on our table. This does nothing in the name of ‘health & safety.’ It goes against my community. It’s not a veto to be proud of, and I know I am not the only one who feels this way. I will continue to support those in my community who work hard and make cottage foods from home to get by, and so should everyone else.” 

The bill passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support, earning 45 votes in the House and 26 in the Senate, prompting legislative leaders to take steps to override the governor’s veto, which would take a two-thirds majority vote in both legislative chambers.

“The veto override motion is prepared,” Toma tweeted to state Senate President Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert.

Hobbs earlier this month set the record for most vetoes issued by an Arizona governor.

Abby McLain

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