Fear and Loathing in Phoenix: Legislative Edition

The following guest post comes to us via Kelley Dupps, public policy manager for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

Once again, Phoenix was a site of flagrant “lawmaking” as representatives and senators from every corner of the state descended upon the Capitol for 2017’s legislative session. With so much bad news — and so many scandals — coming from Washington, the shenanigans pulled by lawmakers closer to home might have flown under most of our radars. But make no mistake — rights are under attack in Arizona: human rights, voting rights, reproductive rights, equal rights.

Bills: Passed and Signed

Compared to recent legislative sessions, 2017 proved to be relatively quiet on the abortion front. The GOP’s only abortion bill was SB 1367, or the fetal torture or “live delivery” bill, depending on your worldview, which was signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey.

SB 1367 proposed — in the face of science — to bind doctors to laws written by people who don’t understand how medicine is practiced, all in the hopes of getting closer to the extremists’ coveted Ban on Abortion. SB 1367 requires fetuses delivered at 20-24 weeks to be given “lifesaving” measures — even though the chances of a late abortion resulting in a live delivery are slim to none and the law would have “cruel consequences for grieving parents.”

With foresight and intention, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona publicly stayed out of this fight, not wanting to give ammo to extremist politicians hoping to confuse the public into thinking this was just another “Planned Parenthood bill,” rather than a late-term abortion bill that does nothing more than traumatize patients.

The voting process was also tampered with — specifically, our right to put citizen-fueled voter initiatives on the ballot. Although several bills that would have altered the initiative process were killed, initiative bills HB 2404, HB 2244, and SB 1236 were signed by the governor. Together, these new laws will make it more difficult for grassroots activists to put a proposition on the ballot, turning what was supposed to be a people-powered process over to corporate-backed initiatives with large funding sources. And let’s be real — we have seen our opposition use the initiative process to further their extremist agenda. One clear example is the inclusion of “personhood” measures in several elections across the country over the past few cycles.

  • HB 2404 dealt with paid signature gathering, determining that gatherers would be paid by the hour, not per signature. This measure is expected to increase initiative costs by 30 percent.
  • HB 2244 creates an initiative handbook, authored by the secretary of state, which is expected to create additional burdens for grassroots organizers, outlining all the specifics and minutiae of remaining “inside the lines” of a campaign.
  • SB 1236 incorporated more strict scrutiny standards for the Prop 105 disclaimers on all petitions and pamphlets. This is basically a legalese way of saying the state is serious when it comes to nitpicking the layout and wording of petitions. If the margins are off, if there are stray marks on a petition page, or if voters abbreviate their city or state, the entire page will be thrown out. The Prop 105 disclaimer standards state that whoever is paying for the initiative campaign must disclose that on all campaign materials. Think all the “Paid for by Citizens for a Better Political System” taglines easily overheard during Election Season. The strict scrutiny standard elevates these disclaimers to the highest level of judicial review, so any misstep — no matter how minor — can easily derail a campaign.

Prop 105 was passed by the voters in 1998, and set into law that voter-passed initiatives could not be overturned by the state Legislature without a 60 percent vote of both chambers. The Legislature would like to nullify this law so they can overturn initiatives they don’t like.

There was a lot of outreach done by AZ Wins to impact the initiative bills, but with the Legislature and governor pushing them, the writing was on the wall. Progressives managed to kill two anti-initiative bills (but some of that language is now incorporated as part of SB 1236). Keep your eyes peeled for a voter referendum on HB 2404 to put the initiative process back into the citizens’ hands.

The Budget

After reviewing the budget bills, a critical issue jumps out: The state is going after federal Title X money for family planning, which is used only for contraception and related preventive health care, never for abortion care. For more than 30 years, the state of Arizona has shown absolutely zero interest in this funding or these services, and Arizona Family Health Partnership has been expertly administering these grants. The state appropriates no family planning funding of its own, and has little expertise in this area. But, as part of a mission to cripple women’s access to family planning resources, the draft 2018 Arizona budget includes a provision to force the Arizona Department of Health Services to compete to become the Title X grantee for Arizona. Should ADHS become the grantee over Arizona Family Health Partnership, Title X funds could not legally be granted to Planned Parenthood.

There is one and only one reason Gov. Ducey is seeking this funding: to double down on his opposition to women’s health care, abortion health care, and Planned Parenthood. When Gov. Ducey targets Planned Parenthood with the loss of Title X funding, he’s talking about shutting down access to reproductive health care to poor women living in specific, often struggling, communities: Maryvale, central Mesa, South Phoenix, and Glendale.

What Else?

Additionally, paramount issues like funding public education, supporting teachers, restoring Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) resources to families, and ensuring all Arizonans are treated equally under the law were considered these past 100+ days at the Capitol. Unfortunately, the GOP-led legislature fell short of serving those in most need, failing to hear or pass bills that would have strengthened education, TANF, or equal rights.

Remember, democracy is not for the faint of heart. As the legislative session draws to a close, it’s more important now than ever to be engaged in what’s going on, to hold decision-makers accountable, and to advocate!, advocate!, advocate! To learn more about getting engaged locally, please contact us!