Thank you to our supporters and community members across the state who weighed in on bills this legislative session. The session may be over (finally!) but our work to advance and protect the rights of all Arizonans continues.
- Over 1,675 bills and resolutions were introduced this session. The ACLU of Arizona tracked nearly one-third of all bills by keeping tabs on 451 bills.
- Weighed in on 96 bills impacting civil rights and liberties.
- Testified on 17 bills in committee hearings.
- Held 88 advocacy meetings with lawmakers.
- Lobbied for, and secured, 32 vetoes.
- 2,305 messages sent to lawmakers by ACLU of Arizona supporters.
The ACLU of Arizona was successful in defeating 93% of the bills it opposed, marking the ACLU of Arizona’s most successful legislative session to date.
At 204 days, the 2023 session was the longest legislative session in state history. Sine Die finally came on July 31, 2023, and while many proactive and positive bills didn’t become law this year, the ACLU of Arizona directly influenced the debate and final disposition of priority legislation in both the Legislature and the Executive.
This year presented a different challenge for the ACLU of Arizona and its allies—a politically divided government. While the Republican controlled legislature attempted to advance many anti-civil rights and liberties bills, they were frequently met with the Governor’s veto pen.
Read our breakdown below or feel free to jump to:
Democracy: Voting Rights, Free Speech, Privacy and Technology
Equity: Racial Justice, Immigrants' Rights, Border Rights, Education Equity
Liberty: Disability Rights, LBGTQ+ Rights, Reproductive Justice, Gender Justice
Justice: Criminal Justice, Police Reform and Accountability, Drug Reform, Capital Punishment
The 2023 legislative session continued the dangerous trend of attacks on democracy. Together with the Arizona voting rights coalition, the ACLU of Arizona was able to stop several anti-democracy attempts. SB 1066 would have violated the First Amendment rights of organizations attempting to get out the vote by mandating specific verbiage on election mail sent to help voters register or find their polling place. We lobbied the Governor’s office and secured a veto. Other notable defeats and vetoes include:
- HB2325: voting; procedures; electors in detention – Created procedures that make it more difficult for people in detention who are eligible to vote to exercise their right.
- SB1141: early ballot drop off; identification – Required unnecessary and burdensome ID when dropping off your mailed ballot in-person, dramatically raising wait times for voters.
- SB1170: ballot drop boxes; requirements; appropriation – Limited the use and availability of secure ballot drop boxes, particularly in Native American communities.
- SB1324/SB1518: images; voter lists; records; penalties - Would remove the guarantee of a secret ballot by requiring images of all ballots to be posted online. SB1324 would fuel conspiracy theories and led to the possibility of voter intimidation.
- HB2415: active early voting lists; removal – Purged voters from the Active Early Voter List (AEVL) if they failed to vote an early ballot in a single election.
- SB1066: election mailings; third-party disclosures – Prohibited non-government entities from sending certain election related mail without a disclosure, in violation of the First Amendment.
- SB1135: spoiled early ballots; election day – A bill based on conspiracy, it would have made it harder to detect voter fraud in Arizona and other states by removing Arizona from an interstate system designed to track persons who vote in multiple jurisdictions.
Our work defending democracy isn’t coming to an end any time soon. Secretary of State Fontes recently released the state’s Elections Procedures Manual—a rulebook that informs county officials on how to effectively and fairly administer elections in accordance with state law. Together with our allies, we will advocate to ensure that its policies strengthen access to the ballot for all.
Extremist lawmakers continued their attacks on public school instruction—however, this year was different due to Governor Hobbs’ veto pen at the ready. Bills that aimed to censor educational materials and exclude important educational information died fairly quickly (HB 2458, SB 1323, SB 1700).
On the border rights front, we led a coalition of organizations in a successful veto request to the Governor on SB 1408. This bill would have allowed criminal prosecutions of non-profits and other organizations who provide aid and support to migrants by using mobile phones or computer applications in their day-to-day operations.
In a devasting blow to education equity, the Arizona legislature passed HB 2460, backtracking on meaningful progress. This bill allows charter and public schools to suspend students in kindergarten through fourth grade for up to two days for minor infractions. Even short-term suspensions hurt students and put a strain on the entire family. Over 1,000 messages were sent to lawmakers urging them to vote no.
- HB2458: race; ethnicity; prohibited instruction – Censored books and prohibited lessons on issues concerning race and gender in public schools.
- SB1700: schools; school libraries; books; prohibition – Requires the removal of books from the school curriculum or library if any parent believes the book promotes gender fluidity or gender pronouns or contains content the parent deems lewd or sexual in nature.
- SB1696: sexually explicit materials; government; prohibition – Made it a Class 5 felony for any teacher to expose any person under the age of 18 to any materials that contained textual, visual or audio descriptions of sexual conduct, sexual contact, or intercourse. SB1696 would have banned movies such as Schindler’s List and the works of Shakespeare from public schools.
- SB1408: electronic applications; human smuggling – Prohibited the use of cellular phones and other electronic devices when providing assistance to migrants. SB1408 would have criminalized volunteers providing humanitarian aid at the border.
In 2023 alone, there have been close to 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced nationwide. We worked with our allies to fight back against hateful bills that target transgender youth—bills like SB 1040 that would’ve banned transgender students from using the correct restroom.
Our LGBTQ+ work wasn’t all defensive this year. We partnered with House Minority Leader Andrés Cano, the LGBTQ+ caucus and the Human Rights Campaign to introduce HB 2703, which would provide critical protections for LGBTQ+ Arizonans by including them in the state’s nondiscrimination law. This bill helped move the conversation forward and while it did not pass this session, we look forward to continuing to advocate for these important protections in the future.
Reproductive justice victories were sparse this year, but there were a few highlights including Governor Hobb’s executive orders on abortion and contraception. And the promise of something greater is on the horizon. Reproductive rights groups filed language with the Secretary of State to put a proactive and comprehensive abortion measure on the ballot in 2024. The ACLU of Arizona has been deeply involved in this ballot measure and we look forward to keeping supporters updated on how they can get involved to protect reproductive freedom in Arizona. Learn more about the initiative at arizonaforabortionaccess.org.
- SB1001: pronouns; biological sex; school policies – Prohibited the use of nicknames and pronouns that differ from those assigned at birth without written parental permission.
- SB1026: state monies; drag shows; minors – Banned drag time story hour at public libraries in the state.
- SB1028: adult cabaret performances; prohibited locations - Banned adult cabaret performances, drag shows and gender fluid expression in public places.
- SB1030: sexually explicit performances; regulation - Required businesses to be defined as an adult-oriented business, including art galleries, bookstores, and theaters, if they had a “sexually explicit performance,” which the bill defined to include drag shows.
- HB2530: substance exposure; pregnant women; neglect – Required additional surveillance and reporting of pregnant persons who have used or are suspected of using alcohol or drugs.
The ACLU of Arizona stopped the vast majority of bills seeking to enhance criminal penalties or create new crimes. The most extreme bills, SB 1027, SB 1029, and SB 2802 would’ve worsened Arizona's fentanyl overdose crisis by putting people suffering from substance use disorder into prison for decades, if not life. In addition, a number of bills, including SB 1413, HB 2284 and SB 1024 sought to impose criminal penalties on those experiencing poverty or homelessness by criminalizing acts such as sleeping, camping, and panhandling in public spaces. The ACLU and allies were able to defeat SB1413 and HB2284 in the legislature, and successfully lobbied the Governor’s office to veto SB1024. Criminalizing the unhoused community will not solve our housing crisis, it will only make it worse by creating more obstacles to economic stability.
On the positive side, after three years of working alongside a coalition of advocates to end the practice of charging children with court fines and fees when they are charged with a crime, the ACLU of Arizona was able to claim success this year with SB 1197 being signed into law. This victory creates a path for the courts to forgive existing debts, though the courts can still charge kids with victim restitution at its discretion.
- HB2226: appropriation; fentanyl prosecution; testing; fund – Created a special fund to target persons suffering from substance abuse disorder for prosecution.
- SB1029: felony murder; fentanyl; sentencing – Allowed persons to be charged with murder if they provided drugs to a person and that person later died, even if the drugs were not the cause of death and the person did not intend for the person to die.
- SB1064: sentencing enhancements; drug-free zones – Re-criminalized marijuana in violation of the recently approved marijuana legalization initiative and the voter protection act.
- SB1413: homeless encampment; removal - Made it crime to erect a tent or similar camping equipment in any public or private area and required cities to confiscate the belongings of homeless persons.
- HB2284: Homelessness; housing; facilities - Mandated the building of outdoor camping areas to house homeless persons and required cities and towns to move unhoused persons into the area, even if the homeless person or city/town objected.
- HB2802: fentanyl sales; manufacture; sentencing; testing – Sharply increased prison sentences for the possession, transport and transfer of small amounts of Fentanyl and related drugs, ballooning Arizona’s prison population.
- SB1027: carfentanil; fentanyl; minors; penalties - Sharply increased prison sentences for the possession, transport and transfer of small amounts of Fentanyl and related drugs, ballooning Arizona’s prison population.
- SB1024: public rights-of-way; unlawful acts – Banned camping in public, criminalizing the act of being unhoused.