Arizona Catholic Conference 2014 legislative wrap-up

The Arizona State Capitol. (J.D. Long-García/CATHOLIC SUN)

The Arizona State Capitol. (J.D. Long-García/CATHOLIC SUN)

On April 24, the Arizona Legislature adjourned sine die at 1:46 a.m., after spending 101 days in session. Like last year, the number of bills introduced was somewhat lower than normal with just over 1,300 pieces of legislation offered this session, about 300 of which actually became law.

The best thing about the 2014 legislative session is that none of the many very problematic proposals became law.

Ron Johnson is executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the public policy agency for the Diocese of Gallup, the Diocese of Phoenix, the Diocese of Tucson and the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix.

Ron Johnson is executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the public policy agency for the Diocese of Gallup, the Diocese of Phoenix, the Diocese of Tucson and the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix.

With respect to life issues alone, there were over a dozen proposals introduced that would have rolled back the many gains made in recent years with respect to protecting innocent human life and the rights of conscience of health care providers. Additionally, measures were introduced that would have inhibited the work of crisis pregnancy centers as well as compelled potentially problematic sexual education curriculum in public schools.

Similarly, efforts to repeal the preference for married couples in public adoptions and promote so-called “same-sex marriage” also were easily defeated with the assistance of House Speaker Andy Tobin and Senate President Andy Biggs.

Religious liberty was another issue that weighed heavily when SB 1062 was passed, but ultimately vetoed. Meanwhile, important pro-life gains were made when Gov. Jan Brewer signed HB 2284 into law.

HB 2284 requires that abortion clinics be subject to the same type of unannounced government inspections as any other health care facility. Following the horrific stories of the Pennsylvania abortion clinic last year, the passage of HB 2284 made sense and will hopefully prevent similar events from happening in Arizona.

It is also worth mentioning that while assisted suicide is already illegal in Arizona, HB 2565 was another pro-life bill passed in order to further clarify that this is still the case.

School choice gains

Arizona remains a national leader in school choice and continues to move forward in this regard without having lost any ground.

Unfortunately, an effort to expand the corporate tuition (scholarship) tax credit to include small businesses that are S corporations was vetoed. Nonetheless, the biggest highlights of this year’s school choice efforts came when proposals to expand the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program to include children of parents who were killed in military action (HB 2150) as well as siblings of current and previous ESA recipients (HB 2139) were successfully passed into law.

Through both the ESA and tuition tax credit programs, thousands of disadvantaged students are able to attend the school that best fits their needs while saving the state money.

Immigration

Immigration remained a hot topic at the Legislature, but more of the attention appropriately focused on the inability of the federal government to accomplish meaningful reform.

A particularly troublesome bill (HB 2192) was introduced that would have made it a crime for those not lawfully in the country to use public resources, including roads and public schools. Thankfully, this measure did not get far, but these types of proposals are likely to continue until Congress takes decisive action to address the situations of the many undocumented families who have been living in our country for a long time.

Conclusion

The Arizona Catholic Conference is grateful to all of the elected officials and groups we worked with this past legislative session to make Arizona a better place for all people to live. We were again fortunate to get some good legislation passed while making sure that all of the many problematic bills were defeated.

As always, your assistance in responding to Action Alerts, and especially your prayers, are greatly appreciated.

The Catholic Sun, as the official news source for the Diocese of Phoenix, shares in the mission of evangelizing the Catholic faithful, under the direction of the bishop, by providing news, information, education, a forum for discussion and guidance in matters of faith, morals and spiritual life.

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