3 August 2012
The Arizona legislature was in session for just under four months, beginning on January 10, 2012, and ending on May 3, 2012. In the House, Republicans enjoyed a 40-19 advantage with one member identifying as an independent, and in the Senate, Republicans held a 21-9 advantage. Despite these fairly wide margins, Arizona still had some close and contentious votes, along with many party-line votes. Between the two houses of the legislature, 1,538 bills, motions, and resolutions were introduced, and 362 of them were enacted into law and signed by the Governor.
The most contentious bill of the session was HB 2625. This bill authorizes employers to refuse to provide insurance coverage of birth control and other contraceptive methods based on the employer's religious beliefs. Employees could receive coverage for contraception for medical reasons as long as they did not use the contraception for contraceptive, abortion, or sterilization purposes. While this bill only affected religious companies and organizations, many people reacted strongly to the bill and the public response to its passage spread nationwide. Supporters cheered the legislation, stating that religious employers should not be forced to provide coverage for contraception. Detractors claimed that the bill violated the privacy of female employees. The bill was amended multiple times by both houses before a final version was sent to Governor Brewer, who signed it on May 11, 2012.
Other high-profile bills affecting women's health included HB 2036, HB 2800, and SB 1359. HB 2036 followed a national trend by prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks. It also required an ultrasound at least 24 hours before the performance of an abortion. HB 2800 prohibits state funds from being used by groups or organizations that provide abortions. Finally, SB 1359 prohibits “wrongful birth” lawsuits. It also allows physicians to knowingly withhold information of prenatal problems that could potentially influence whether or not a pregnant woman chooses to have an abortion.
Tax issues were a high priority for both the Governor and the legislature during this session. HB 2815 establishes tax deductions for businesses that are subject to “additional regulation”, which is defined by the bill as regulations other than health or safety regulations, criminal or civil fraud regulations, or regulations that cost the business more than any benefits gained from the regulations. HCR 2043 submits a constitutional amendment to voters that requires at least 60 percent of voters to affirm any new tax, increase in existing tax rates, reduction or elimination of existing tax deductions, or authorization of certain entities to collect or levy taxes. In addition, the Senate proposed a bill to levy sales taxes on online retailers for products used, stored, or consumed in the state. This bill, SB 1338, ultimately failed to pass the Senate.
Friction between the Arizona and the federal government was prevalent during the session. HCR 2004 was passed in order to create a ballot measure which would establish state sovereignty over certain natural resources such as air and water within the state's boundaries. In a similar vein, SB 1332 requires the federal government to turn over federal lands to the state or start paying property taxes by 2014, however the Governor vetoed this bill. SB 1182 prohibited the enforcement of certain provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. The banned provisions include: the indefinite detention of a U.S. citizen without charge or trial captured within the U.S., the trial of Americans captured in the U.S. in military courts, and the extradition of U.S. citizens to foreign countries. Governor Brewer vetoed the bill on May 14, 2012, stating that she “cannot support legislation that forces law enforcement – under threat of criminal penalty – to choose between upholding the Constitution and the laws of the United States and the laws of Arizona.” Finally, HB 2434 required federal government's agents to notify local law enforcement officials prior to taking any action within state jurisdiction. This bill was also vetoed by Governor Brewer on April 11, 2012 for its “potential to interfere with law enforcement investigations and adds unneeded reporting requirements for law enforcement.”
Dale Hardy is a graduate of the University of Louisville with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science, and an entering law school student at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law. Dale is a current intern at Project Vote Smart. For more information on internship opportunities with Project Vote Smart contact us at email@example.com or call 1-800-VOTE-SMART.