Welcome to the first regular session of the 55th Legislature here in Arizona! Technically we’re less than two weeks into the 100-day session and have about 88 days to go, but who’s counting? This week the Nation experienced a whirlwind of emotions: some final endings, new beginnings, and the many questions facing us as we search for a way forward together. After just the first three weeks into the New Year (promising COVID vaccine(s), a new Congress, elections in Georgia, attempted insurrection in the U.S. Capitol, a new administration), 2021 has the potential to impact our future like no other year.
But let’s revel in the moment of Wednesday’s inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next President and VP to take on the circumstances of today, reckon the ghosts of past injustices, and work to find a common path forward with liberty and justice as the end game. Newly-minted VP Harris swiftly swore in three new Democratic Senators: the first Jewish Senator from Georgia, Jon Ossoff, the first Latino Senator, from California, and the first Black Senator from Georgia, Rev. Rafael Warnock; and with the addition of Arizona’s own Sen. Mark Kelly (sworn in Nov. 30), the U.S. Senate's roster reads 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, with VP Harris breaking any 50-50 ties, giving control to the Democrats. Mitch McConnell now sports the title of Minority Leader and is under pressure not to convict the former President under the impeachment Articles currently before the Senate.
And just like that, the balance of power has swung back from dark and disorganized place to find a new America suffering the loss of more than 400,000 friends, family members and loved ones from the mismanagement of the coronavirus, that continues to cage children and deny basic rights to millions based on documentation, and one fractured from the systemic upholding of white supremacy and all the ills that have cascaded from there. We have a lot of work to do, and i am more than hopeful that the Administration has amassed the talent to address all of this and more -- partly because there was action to back up these values in the first 17 Executive Orders addressing everything from climate change to strengthening DACA to the Muslim travel ban to lifting the trans military ban to pausing deportations and residential evictions for the next 100 days. These comprehensive orders seek to begin to undo the damage done by the previous administration. This restoration may take decades to fully comprehend and enact.
Ok, enough of that! We might be Blue AF nationally, but at the state and local level here at home in Arizona, the political landscape for people seeking justice is still limited. People seeking abortion still must overcome barriers of waiting periods, limited abortion doctors (since nurse practitioner’s have been legislated out of abortion practice, ban on telemedicine and health insurance coverage for abortion are just a few of the multitude of restrictions on accessing abortion healthcare.
As we commemorate the anniversary of Roe, we acknowledge that if Roe is overturned or compromised, Arizona law holds that abortion patients and doctors will be imprisoned for up to 5 years, along with the organizations that help support those patients and providers. Currently, Arizona anti-abortion and anti-democratic politicians were inciting -- and in some cases, attending -- the insurrection, just a few weeks ago. Now they are flocking to far-right platforms since many of their followers have been deplatformed.
Antis Gonna Anti. The recent events have not stopped anti-abortion politicians from introducing some gross legislation. This past week, here were two bills in the Senate HHS Committee this week that were abortion adjacent: SCR1009 and SB1022.
a. SCR1009 was held at the beginning of the committee hearing. PPAA signed in against SCR1009 and have drafted testimony (we expect them to rally troops for Round 2). Sponsored by Sen. Sine Kerr (602-926-5955 [email protected]).
b. SB1022 is on the agenda in today’s Senate HHS hearing. Sponsored by Sen. Kelly Townsend (602-926-4467 [email protected]), this bill deals with fetal remains, with a Strike Everything amendment…TL;DR this messaging bill is going for the ‘ick’ factor and could be a vehicle for mayhem down the line. In committee, PPAA has signed in as Opposed. After limited testimony, including from the ACLU of Arizona, the amended bill passed on a party-line voice vote.
On the horizon, we’re expecting literally thousands of bills to be introduced this session -- obviously, not all of them will be about sexual and reproductive health and rights. Here are some voting rights and voter suppression bills we’re monitoring:
SB1069, a bill introduced and amended by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (602-926-4480, [email protected]) that would purge hundreds of thousands of people from the permanent vote by mail list, was in committee on Thursday. The bill is one of a series of voter suppression bills currently under consideration by the Arizona state legislature, alongside:
HB2369 (Rep. Kevin Payne): would require early ballots to be notarized;
HB2370 (Rep. Kevin Payne): would eliminate permanent vote by mail list entirely;
HCR2001 (Rep. John Kavangh): would undermine the ballot initiative process by imposing a “single subject rule,” making it easier to use a technicality to challenge a ballot measure.
We’re also aware of other maternal health/abortion/birth control bills on the docket as well that we’re tracking that are IN COMMITTEE next week are the Sen. Nancy Barto (602-926-5766 [email protected]):
SB1251, Manufactured Crisis Pregnancy Clinics;
SB1254, a bill that would create commission full of anti-abortion advocates to push adoption;
There should be a metric ton of bills by this time next week, so make sure you sign up for our email alerts to stay on top of everything happening during The Session