Extension of Hobbs’ tribal relations office stalled by Az GOP senators

The fate of the Governor’s Office of
Tribal Relations is unclear after Senate Republicans refused to take up a
bill allowing the office to continue operating after June that had
received bipartisan backing in the House of Representatives. 

Because Sen. Jake Hoffman, the Republican chairman of the Senate Government Committee, didn’t allow his committee to consider House Bill 2429
before a March deadline, the bill extending the agency for eight years
is dead. Instead, the future existing of the tribal relations office
hinges on a late amendment added to House Bill 2632.

That amendment
proposes extending the work of eight executive agencies, boards, and
commissions — but for just two years, and with restrictions on how they
operate and what they can do.

For instance, the agencies would be
prohibited from spending public money or using public resources on
“critical race theory” training.

The Governor’s Office says it
disapproves of the proposed restrictions, noting that the provisions
were not agreed upon by the executive agencies, stakeholders or the
original bill sponsors for HB2429.

The other agencies facing a two-year extension in the amendment to
HB2632 include the Department of Administration, the largest state
agency; the Occupational Safety and Health Review Board; the Boiler
Advisory Board; the Arizona Board of Technical Registration; and the
Arizona State Personnel Board.

Jason Chavez, who leads the
Governor’s Office on Tribal Relations, said that there’s still a chance
senators will revive HB2429 and extend his office’s operations for eight

“I am hopeful that they will do so as
Arizona has the third-largest Native American population nationally,
and tribal lands comprise more than 25 percent of Arizona’s total land
mass,” Chavez said in a written statement Gov. Katie Hobbs’
administration provided to the Mirror in response to repeated requests
to interview Chavez.

If nothing is done, then the office will shut down on July 1.

“Tribal relations play a critical
role in building an Arizona where everyone can thrive,” Liliana Soto, a
press secretary for Hobbs, said in a statement.

“Rather than passing the bipartisan
continuation from the House, radical legislators like Jake Hoffman chose
to play politics with tribal relations, but the governor will continue
her diligent work with tribes and do what’s right for Arizona regardless
of this continuation bill,” she added.

The revitalization of the Governor’s Office on Tribal Relations happened in 2023, and Hobbs appointed Chavez, a citizen of the Tohono O’odham Nation from the San Miguel village in the Chukut Kuk District, as the director of the office.

The Governor’s Office on Tribal
Relations was initially established as the Commission of Indian Affairs
in 1953, according to Chavez, and it was created to consider and study
conditions among Indigenous people living within the state. 

“The Office on Tribal Relations
builds cooperation between the state and 22 sovereign tribal nations,”
Chavez said in a statement. “Given the significant American Indian
population and surrounding tribal lands, the Office is critical to
creating opportunity for everyone throughout Arizona.”

The Office of Tribal Relations
comprises a tribal affairs advisor, a project coordinator, an executive
assistant, and a missing and murdered Indigenous peoples coordinator.

“The Governor’s Office will continue
working to pass a clean continuation that protects Arizona-Tribal
relations and allows the strong relationships Governor Hobbs has built
with tribal leaders to continue flourishing,” Soto said.

The Navajo Nation Office of the
President and Vice President issued a letter of support for the
Governor’s Office of Tribal Relations during the committee hearing for
bill HB2429 in January. 

With the potential closure looming,
the Navajo Nation President’s office said that cutting off a
communication link with tribes in Arizona would be detrimental.

“This is the tribe’s avenue to the
state government, and it needs to stay open,” said George Hardeen,
public relations director for the Navajo Nation office of the president
and vice president. 

“Closing any office that communicates
with tribes will sooner or later be discovered as a mistake,” Hardeen
added. “More than ever, tribes’ voices are being heard and listened to.”