The Arizona Catholic Conference says the latest state legislature session was “truly extraordinary” and possibly the most pro-life session in Arizona history. Abortion restrictions were passed while tax credits for student vouchers and non-profits were preserved or expanded. Further, a weighty anti-immigrant bill went down in defeat.
Characterizing the legislative session, which ended July 1, as “one of the most unusual and bitter legislative sessions in memory,” Ron Johnson of the Arizona Catholic Conference (ACC) listed legislative achievements in a “wrap-up” announcement.
Johnson said the ACC was “especially grateful” that Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the Abortion Consent Bill, which requires informed consent and a 24-hour waiting period before abortions, tightens parental consent requirements. The new laws also specify that non-physicians cannot perform surgical abortions and they provide conscience protections for health care workers and pharmacists.
According to Johnson, the provisions barring non-physicians from performing abortions were added because new information showed that nurse practitioners performed more abortions than previously thought.
A state ban on partial-birth abortions was also enacted, while an end-of-life measure preserves food and fluids for certain patients with guardians.
Further, the ACC initiated a bill to help streamline charitable tax credits for non-profits who help low-income people and the disadvantaged. The ACC said this would help faith-based charities and crisis pregnancy centers during a time of increased need and shrinking resources.
The ACC claimed “enormous” victories in the area of school choice.
The first victory claimed by the ACC was the passing of a tuition tax credit for corporations. The credit targets low and moderate income students who are entering kindergarten or want to switch from public to private schools.
Gov. Jan Brewer also called a special session was called to help foster students and disabled students who would have lost their school vouchers at the end of the school year because of a state Supreme Court decision.
Immigration issues were also considered in the state legislature. One bill would have made it a crime for illegal immigrants to seek employment or solicit work on their own in yard work or tree cutting.
The most attention-getting bill would have compelled local police to enforce federal immigration law above others. It also would have established a felony crime of trespass for all those not legally in the country.
The ACC opposed the bill, as did various chiefs of police. The police chiefs argued the bill would take away resources from more serious crimes and would chill the desires of crime victims and witnesses to step forward.
Both immigration bills failed, but are expected to return next year.
“The ACC is grateful to all of the people and groups it has worked with over the course of this session that have made our efforts successful. In particular, there are certain legislators that deserve special praise such as Rep. Nancy Barto and Sen. Linda Gray who have championed the pro-life and conscience measures through their respective chambers,” the ACC said.
State Rep. Steve Yarbrough and State Sen. John Huppenthal were praised as “outstanding leaders” on school choice and the charitable tax credit, while Sen. Amanda Aguirre was specially acknowledged for providing a decisive vote on charitable tax credit.
“The ACC is grateful to all of the people who supported our efforts through prayers and e-mails this session,” Johnson said.