2020 LEGISLATIVE WRAP-UP
By Ron Johnson
Arizona Catholic Conference
The 2020 Arizona Legislative Session has been called both the busiest and the slowest legislative session in Arizona history. Without a doubt, it was the most unusual session.
Before adjourning sine die on May 26th, the session was already famous for having the most pieces of legislation introduced in state history. When it finished, however, after a long suspension due to the pandemic, it actually ended up being the session with the fewest bills signed into law.
Religious Liberty Concerns
Several bills threatening religious liberty were introduced this year, but they all were defeated. Perhaps the most troubling of these bills were measures attempting to remove the Seal of Confession (SB 1235 and SB 1365).
While priests will never violate the Seal of Confession, these pieces of legislation demonstrate the willingness of some to essentially attempt to have the government regulate a sacrament. The Arizona Catholic Conference (ACC) is grateful that these troubling measures infringing on religious freedom did not advance.
Legislation singling out health care providers with religious beliefs for increased public scrutiny (HB 2068) was also defeated as was an effort to remove the rights of conscience for pharmacists who object to abortion (SB 1550).
Despite a divided Legislature, the ACC was pleased that $100,000 was approved for homeless pregnant mothers, like the ones served at Maggie’s Place.
We were disappointed that an effort to provide funding for abortion alternatives and a 211 information and referral system stalled at the end of the session (HB 2388). Funding for the 211 system was later found outside of the Legislature, and we are grateful that because of our advocacy, this program apparently will not make referrals to abortion providers.
Other legislation that would have harmed the sanctity of human life included efforts to legalize assisted suicide (SB 1497, SB 1384, and HB 2582) and eliminate parental consent before abortions (SB 1270). Additionally, efforts were made to allow non-physicians to perform abortions (HB 2693) and no longer require a doctor’s visit before receiving prescriptions for oral contraceptives (SB 1493). Thankfully, none of these measures were passed into law.
An important immigration bill (HB 2604) was overwhelmingly approved by a bi-partisan majority in the House but ran out of time in the Senate. This legislation would have allowed state and local governments to use consular identification cards as a form of identification if they were backed with biometric identity verification techniques such as fingerprints.
HB 2604 would not allow these forms of identification to be used for many things, but they would have been a valuable tool for law enforcement to identify people and also for use in obtaining basic necessities such as utilities.
With respect to adoption agencies, it should be noted that an effort (HB 2600) to reveal the identity of birth mothers who placed a child for adoption many years ago was passed by the House, before stalling in the Senate. While most birth mothers are encouraged to make this information known, and the results are generally positive, there are still women who want this information to be kept secret for safety reasons.
The ACC opposed this measure in order to protect these women who otherwise might obtain an abortion without these protections.
School Choice and Related Matters
We are grateful that Governor Doug Ducey signed another positive school choice bill (SB 1224) into law this year.
SB 1224 will help several Navajo families continue to receive Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) scholarships to send their children to a school they attend just over the border in New Mexico. SB 1224 also contains important administrative reforms to make the administration of the ESA program better for all recipients.
Meanwhile, a proposal to protect women’s sports (HB 2706) by not having girls compete against biological males was introduced by Rep. Nancy Barto. This measure was passed by the House before unfortunately stalling in the Senate.
The Arizona Catholic Conference is grateful for all of the elected officials and groups we worked with this past legislative session. We are also grateful for your assistance in responding to Action Alerts and your prayers.
If you have not already done so, please sign up for free e-mail updates at www.azcatholicconference.org so that we can continue to grow the influence of the Catholic Church on important public policy matters.