Arizona Catholic Conference 2018 Legislative Wrap-Up

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The bishops of Arizona, (from left to right) Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares of Phoenix and Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger, concelebrated the Catholic Schools Mass Jan. 31 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)
Arizona Catholic Conference

The Arizona Catholic Conference is the public policy agency for the Diocese of Phoenix, the Diocese of Tucson, the Diocese of Gallup and the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix. Bishops from each of these dioceses comprise the Board of Directors of the ACC. Through its executive director, the ACC represents the Church on a variety of public policy and legislative matters.

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By Ron Johnson
Arizona Catholic Conference

On May 4, the Arizona Legislature adjourned sine die after spending 116 days in session. In total, more than 1,300 pieces of legislation were introduced with just over 300 of them set to become law.

Of particular note is the fact that some very significant bills supported by the Arizona Catholic Conference (ACC) were passed into law, while all of the most problematic bills again failed.

Pro-Life and Conscience Successes

Arizona was recently named the most pro-life state in the nation and it continues to move forward in this regard. Many people, however, do not realize the increasingly numerous attempts that are made each year to undo these laws.

Specifically, multiple measures were again introduced to repeal virtually every pro-life and rights of conscience law already on the books. These many bills proposed to eliminate parental consent and informed consent for abortions; as well as remove protections for religious employers who do not want to be forced to pay for abortions and contraceptives; and curtail freedoms for pharmacies and health care providers not wanting to participate in the taking of innocent human life.

Ron Johnson is the director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the public policy agency for the Diocese of Phoenix.

Additionally, it should be noted that several bills were also once again introduced to legalize assisted suicide in Arizona.

Fortunately, legislative leadership continued to help make sure that none of these bills received a hearing and that they all failed to pass.

While all of the bad bills failed, a significant pro-life victory was also won with the passage of SB 1394 which was sponsored by Senator Nancy Barto and signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey. SB 1394 will enhance Arizona’s existing abortion reporting law by allowing for the collection of more accurate data in order to develop improved services provided to women and their babies.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey thanked pro-lifers for helping make Arizona the most pro-life state in the nation at the Arizona Life Rally Jan. 20. (Jesús Valencia/CATHOLIC SUN)

School Choice Legislation

Education was a dominant issue at the Arizona Legislature this year and the ACC continues to recognize the importance of this issue for all children regardless of where their parents choose to educate them.

Numerous efforts were made this session, however, that would have negatively impacted the ability of parents to send their children to the schools that best fits their needs. In particular, several bills proposed to either eliminate tuition tax credits or hinder the ability of these programs to operate.

Without these programs, many low-income students would be unable to attend the schools they are currently attending and several of our Catholic schools would have to close. Thankfully, however, none of these harmful measures succeeded.

On a positive note, two helpful bills were signed into law that would ensure that private schools have an opportunity to bid on vacant public school property (HB 2460) and that private schools are treated equally with public schools with regard to zoning restrictions (HB 2461).

Student representatives from diocesan elementary schools bow after presenting the gifts for consecration to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted during a special Mass Jan. 31. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Vulnerable Populations Protected

This session did not see much focus on immigration related bills, with the exception of a helpful proposal (HB 2155) to provide consumer protection for undocumented immigrants who are victimized by so-called “notarios.” In Mexico, the term “notario” is often used to refer to an attorney, but in the United States, they can be nothing more than a notary public.

A frequent problem with “notario” fraud in Arizona is that unqualified individuals defraud immigrants of thousands of dollars and cause great harm to any legal claims they may have. The passage of HB 2155 hopefully will curb this fraud by adding civil penalties for those engaging in this behavior.

With respect to vulnerable populations, legislation was again introduced (SB 1019) to eventually repeal the charitable and foster care tax credit programs that tremendously benefit Catholic Charities, pregnancy resource centers, soup kitchens and others. Fortunately, through the efforts of the ACC, all of these measures were defeated.

Ron Johnson (far left), executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, joins a group of bipartisan Catholic elected officials who served as lectors at the Red Mass Jan. 23 at St. Mary’s Basilica. They are, from left to right, State Rep. T.J. Shope, State Rep. Jill Norgaard, State Sen. Catherine Miranda, State Rep. Travis Grantham, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Mikish and Arizona Corporation Commissioner Andy Tobin. (Tony Gutiérrez/CATHOLIC SUN)

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 to live. We are also grateful for your assistance in responding to Action Alerts, and your prayers.