ACLU of Arizona 2015 Legislative Report

This year's legislative session may have been Arizona's shortest since 1968, but it still presented plenty of challenges for civil liberties advocates. 1,163 bills were introduced and 344 were sent to Gov. Doug Ducey. He signed all but 20 of them.

The ACLU of Arizona fought hard for our constitutional rights throughout the 81-day session. Here's a rundown of our wins, losses, and where we need to keep up momentum. Our full legislative report for 2015 is available here (PDF). Please stay in touch with us on Facebook and Twitter for even more ACLU of Arizona updates.

 

Police Practices – Working with community partners, and thanks to thousands of calls and emails from ACLU of Arizona supporters, we convinced Gov. Ducey to veto Senate Bill 1445. This bill would have required law enforcement agencies across Arizona to conceal the identities of officers who use violent or deadly force for two months after the incident.

Prisoners' Rights – Despite a significant budget deficit, the legislature appropriated $6.6 million to address the 2014 settlement in Parsons v. Ryan, the ACLU's class action lawsuit that is bringing improved mental and physical health care to people in Arizona prisons.

Gay and Transgender Rights – House Bill 2296 made Arizona county attorneys' duty to assist with adoption petitions discretionary rather than mandatory. Alarm bells went off after it was revealed that Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery objected to assisting a same sex couple with their adoption. Gov. Ducey heard the ACLU of Arizona’s arguments urging the bill's veto, and he did so, stating that he was concerned giving discretion to county attorneys could result in fewer adoptions.

Personal Privacy – This legislative session, like prior sessions, brought forward a number of bills that could foster discrimination against segments of the population based upon race, ethnicity or national origin. Those measures all failed. The most notable defeat in this arena was also a victory for personal privacy. Senate Bill 1294 attempted to classify a person's name, date of birth, place of birth, and country of citizenship as public records, and would have required those details to be printed on select public documents, including traffic tickets. Three Republican lawmakers joined with the Senate Democrats to defeat the proposal.

Open Government – Senate Bill 1300 initially declared that police body camera recordings should not be public records. Fortunately, after we fought back against this measure, the bill was amended significantly. In the end, a study committee was tasked with researching the significant issues involved with the use of body cameras by law enforcement officers. The ACLU of Arizona will closely monitor the study committee's discussions.

Solitary Confinement – In order to demand greater transparency from the Arizona Department of Corrections, we drafted and lobbied for House Bill 2498, which would have required public reporting on Arizona prisons' use of solitary confinement. Although the bill was not brought to a vote in either chamber, our efforts successfully raised awareness of, and interest in, the issue of solitary confinement among key legislators. It also helped elevate the voices of inmates’ family members and mental health advocates who testified in support of the measure at a public hearing.

Free Speech – After the ACLU successfully convinced a federal judge to block enforcement of an unconstitutionally broad law enacted last year that prohibits the publication of nude images, House Bill 2561 was introduced this session to remedy the law's defects. HB 2561 was carefully crafted with ACLU input and unanimously passed the House; however, the bill died in the final hours of the legislative session when the Senate unexpectedly adjourned. We'll keep working to ensure this law is within the First Amendment's limits before it goes into effect.

Voting Restrictions – Senate Bill 1339 would have criminalized collecting and turning in more than two early ballots from other voters during an election cycle. Despite very loud opposition, the bill narrowly passed the Senate only to meet its fate in the House. We're staying vigilant, as we expect similar measures to appear again.

Separation of Church and State – House Bill 2128 gives a tax break to owners of private property leased by churches. It does not confer the same benefit to those who lease space to other non-profits. This law shifts the tax burden to property owners who are not leasing to religious entities and/or results in tax losses for local governments. This bill passed by significant margins and was signed by Gov. Ducey.

Abortion Restrictions – Senate Bill 1318 sought to (1) prohibit health care exchange plans from providing abortion coverage, (2) make public the names of physicians providing abortions, and (3) require that physicians tell their patients that medication abortions can be reversed — a scientifically unfounded statement. Although we were able to find support among legislators to remove the provision making physician names public, the remainder of the bill became law.

If you want even more information about the ACLU of Arizona's work at the Capitol in 2015, our full legislative report is available here (PDF).

The ACLU of Arizona will be back at the legislature next year, lobbying for fairness and equality. In the meantime, we'll continue fighting bad policies in the courts and through public education — please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more frequent updates about the ACLU of Arizona's work. Thank you for joining with us to defend our freedoms.

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