ARIZONA CATHOLIC CONFERENCE
2023 LEGISLATIVE WRAP-UP
After spending 204 days in session, the Arizona Legislature adjourned sine die on July 31st, making it the longest session in history. In total, nearly 1,800 pieces of legislation were introduced with 205 bills signed into law and 143 of them vetoed which set a state record.
Despite the politically divided situation at the Capitol, several significant items supported by the Arizona Catholic Conference (ACC) were thankfully passed into law, while the most problematic bills again failed to pass.
School Choice Preserved
The ACC was particularly pleased that last year’s historic law to allow every student the ability to obtain an Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) scholarship to attend the school that best fits their needs was preserved. Several efforts were made to curtail this program, especially during the budget process, but they were ultimately unsuccessful. Accordingly, Arizona remains the leading school choice state in the country.
Meanwhile, although no new bills to expand or improve the successful tuition tax credit programs supporting needy students were passed, all of the various attempts to undermine this program were fortunately blocked by legislative leadership.
Vulnerable Populations Protected
The large and growing problem of homelessness was addressed in the budget with $150 million being added to the Housing Trust Fund and another $60 million being added for homeless shelters and other services (SB 1720). There are multiple factors contributing to the homelessness crisis across Arizona, but it is hoped that this additional funding for eviction prevention, shelters, and affordable housing will help.
Low-income children also will benefit from the recently signed budget which increases the Children’s Health Income Program (CHIP) eligibility by 25 percent. By doing so, an additional 12,000 children will be able to receive health insurance.
With regard to gun violence, the ACC Bishops were grateful that bills relating to prohibited weapons (SB 1109) and allowing more guns on school campuses (SB 1331) were vetoed, as noted in an earlier joint statement. Similarly, the ACC was pleased that no harmful laws relating to predatory lending or immigration were passed this session.
Human Life and Religious Freedom Supported
Regrettably, an attempt to provide basic medical care to all infants born alive (SB 1600) was approved by the Legislature following testimony from the ACC, but ultimately vetoed. Additionally, funding for pregnant homeless women was unfortunately not included in this year’s budget because the recipients would not make abortion referrals.
There were several pieces of legislation to repeal the many great pro-life laws relating to abortion and religious freedom that are already on the books in Arizona, but they were all thankfully defeated. Similarly, efforts to provide state funding for abortions in the budget and to legalize assisted suicide (HB 2583 and SB 1646) were also attempted, but they all failed to move.
Finally, it is worth noting that for the first time in many years, an informational hearing on legislation to repeal the death penalty (SB 1475) was held in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The ACC, along with others, provided testimony in support of this bill and was glad that the issue received thoughtful discussion.
The Arizona Catholic Conference is grateful to all the elected officials and groups we worked with this past session to pass legislation promoting the common good and to defeat harmful bills. We are also appreciative for your support, and especially your prayers.