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Gilbert lawmaker introduces new version of home-cooked foods bill

Posted 1/4/24

PHOENIX — Stung by a veto last year, Rep. Travis Grantham has introduced a new version of his proposal to expand what kinds of home-cooked foods can be sold to the public.

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Gilbert lawmaker introduces new version of home-cooked foods bill


PHOENIX — Stung by a veto last year, Rep. Travis Grantham has introduced a new version of his proposal to expand what kinds of home-cooked foods can be sold to the public.

But it remains unclear whether the language added to what has become known as the “tamale bill” by the Gilbert Republican is enough to get Gov. Katie Hobbs to give the measure her approval and legalize the activities of many who peddle their goods on street corners and parking lots.

“My staff has been in conversations on this bill,” the governor told Capitol Media Services. But Hobbs, who shocked members of her own party with her 2023 veto, said she has not seen the new language.

And Grantham said he hasn’t talked with Hobbs. But he said the alterations are designed to overcome her objections.

“These are concerns that were levied last year,” he said.

“I’m trying to address some of them as I can,” Grantham continued.

What he won’t change is a prohibition on home inspections, announced or otherwise.

“My plan has never been, nor is it now, to allow inspectors to go into people’s homes,” Grantham said. “That’s just a non-starter.”

Now he’s waiting for feedback from the governor on everything else in his new House Bill 2042.

“We’ll see what kind of conversation is sparked.”

The issue has created sparks. Arizona law already allows the sale of what are known as “cottage” foods. What Grantham’s 2023 bill sought to do was expand the list to include certain cooked foods — like tamales.

The measure initially proved wildly popular among lawmakers, clearing the state House on a 45-11 margin, with the Senate giving its OK with just four dissenting votes.

It added some requirements, like anyone doing home cooking to complete food handler classes and maintain active certification. It also would have required the seller to register with the Arizona Department of Health Services.

And it also included full disclosure on the label, from the name and registration number of the food prepared to a statement saying, “This product was produced in a home kitchen that may process common food allergens and is not subject to public health inspection.”

Hobbs was unconvinced.

“It fails to establish sufficient minimum standards for inspection or certification of home-based business, and could limit the ability to ADHS to investgiate food-borne disease out breaks,” the governor wrote.

But she drew particular ire over her comment the law would open the door to items being cooked in home kitchens with “rodent or insect infestation.”

“That is offensive,” said Rep. Alma Herandez, D-Tucson, a supporter of the measure. “And I would be glad to put up my nana’s kitchen or my mom’s kitchen up against anyone else.”

Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, whose mother and grandmother are Mexican immigrants, took it a step farther.

“Not only was the veto outrageous, but to continue to push racist tropes of homes riddled with insect infestation or rodent infestation, it will just not be tolerated in the year 2023,” he said.

But an override failed when several Democrats who supported the original measure voted to leave her veto intact.

That now leads to HB 2042, the new version — and the changes made by Grantham.

“We accounted for a definition of a ‘home kitchen,’” he said, something missing from last year’s bill.

It also includes language to deal with situations where there is someone who is developmentally disabled working in a home kitchen by requiring there be someone there who actually has a state-issued food handler card.

And to address the governor’s concerns about the ability of the health department to have some oversight, Grantham said it gives the agency “sharper teeth to be able to revoke a license or to fine somebody if they break a rule associated with having a food handler’s permit.”

That leaves the issue of oversight.

On one hand, the governor has told Capitol Media Services she isn’t seeking to allow health officials to make unannounced inspections. But Hobbs has remained mum on whether she thinks there should be the ability for inspectors to check out the kitchen at least once before cooking and production can start.

Grantham, however, said there’s no legitimate purpose for such prior approval of kitchens.

“They can’t be set up the way those inspectors are going to want them set up,” he said.

“People’s homes don’t have industrial sinks and massive sewer pipes and fire suppression systems,” Grantham said, the kind of things inspectors want in a commercial kitchen. “That will do nothing but put home kitchens out of business.”

And he said he sees something nefarious in the whole idea of home inspections.

“The only reason those inspectors would want to go into somebody’s home kitchen is to tell them why they can’t make food and sell it,” Grantham said. “That’s not what we’re interested in doing to people.”

HB 2042 has other provisions designed to set some limits on what can be made in home kitchens and how they can be marketed.

For example, any product that contains dairy or meat has to be sold and delivered in person. And if the product is potentially hazardous or requires time or temperature controls, it must be maintained at those temperatures during delivery, cannot be transported more than once, and cannot be transporter for more than two hours.

They also cannot include marijuana.

And on the enforcement side, the bill contains language that says nothing in it precludes the health department from investigating any food-borne illness.

The measure has not yet been assigned to a committee for a hearing.