Arizona Legislature completes shortest session in decades

Arizona Catholic Conference 2015 legislative wrap-up

Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, encourages attendees Sept. 6 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center to be informed voters and to recall past successes such as the passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment in 2008. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, encourages attendees Sept. 6 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center to be informed voters and to recall past successes such as the passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment in 2008. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)

On April 3, the Arizona Legislature adjourned sine die at 3:37 a.m. after spending 81 days in session. The session was extremely fast-paced and was the shortest in nearly 50 years. In total over 1,200 pieces of legislation were introduced, with less than 400 of them becoming law.

The relatively poor fiscal condition of the State and the resultant tough budget decisions dominated most of the discussion. Nonetheless, before the session had ended, there were some very good bills supported by the Arizona Catholic Conference (ACC) that became law, while all of the most problematic bills had failed.

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.

Life and conscience issues

The ACC is particularly grateful that Gov. Doug Ducey signed important pro-life legislation (SB 1318) into law. This measure makes sure that insurance companies on the federal health exchange in Arizona do not cover elective abortions in their policies.

Previously, the ACC had initiated similar legislation that made Arizona the first state to accomplish this feat, but it became clear that this statutory language needed to be modified. Thankfully, Sen. Nancy Barto once again took the lead by sponsoring this bill to better protect Arizona taxpayers. With the passage of SB 1318, Arizona continues its proud heritage of being one of the most pro-life states in the country.

Another pro-life bill (SB 1404) that also became law will help better protect vulnerable patients at the end of their lives. Specifically, SB 1404 ensures that health care powers of attorney and advance directives will not be usurped by a Physician’s Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST). End of life decisions are always difficult to make and should involve much thought and consultation. SB 1404 preserves these current mechanisms so that the advance wishes of patients will be honored.

As usual, there were a plethora of bills targeted at repealing the many pro-life and rights of conscience laws passed in recent years. These proposals aimed to repeal the rights of conscience of health care providers with respect to morning after pills, as well as repealing abortion laws relating to informed consent and parental consent, to name but a few. They also attempted to interfere with the operation of crisis pregnancy centers. With the help of legislative leadership, however, all of these harmful measures were defeated.

School choice expansion

Arizona added to its legacy of being a national leader in school choice this year by passing a bill (SB 1332) into law to expand eligibility under the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program to include all children living on Indian Reservations.

Additionally, after several previous attempts, legislation (HB 2153) was signed into law allowing S Corporations to participate in the existing corporate tuition tax credit program. This program remains means-tested and saves the state money by targeting children switching from public to private school. By now allowing S Corporations to be included, however, small businesses as well as large corporations both have a chance to participate in an effort to help needy children attend the school that best fits their needs.

Immigration

The tone of the legislative session was very calm with respect to immigration. The ACC is appreciative that no problematic legislative proposals moved forward in this regard and continues to encourage Congress to take much needed action.

Conclusion

The Arizona Catholic Conference is grateful to all of the elected officials and groups that worked with us this year to make Arizona an even better place to live and raise a family. We are also especially grateful for the prayers and support of those receiving these legislative updates.

If you are not already receiving these updates, please make sure that you are on our list by going to www.azcatholicconference.org.

Thank you and God bless!

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.