The ACLU began the 2011 session tracking almost 50 bills. Although this number was significantly down from the previous session, the bills introduced this year were more hostile toward civil liberties than in years past. Predictably, bills restricting a woman's right to choose, blurring the separation of church and state, and demonizing the immigrant community were prevalent through the 1800 bills introduced.
While many other organizations and individuals were concerned by the fundamentally conservative nature of the new administration and agency heads, the affiliate was prepared for the typical neglect toward civil liberties as witnessed in the past. The strategy changed very little this session. Legislative Counsel Tamya Cox, who also serves as the lobbyist, was required to be in the office more this session due to the transition of executive directors. Therefore, Cox focused her attention on bills that lacked an organized effort. She wrote more position papers and provided needed talking points to key legislators.
Mainly anti-immigrant bills and First Amendment restrictions bills became the focus of her efforts. Over 20 anti-immigrant bills were introduced this session. It was expected that an Arizona copy-cat bill would be introduced, and there were several versions introduced. Several bills attempted to redefine the 14th Amendment and other bills were introduced that would penalize children of undocumented individuals, prohibiting them from attending public schools- a clear violation of long held case law.
Early in the session, HB 1446 was designated by the House leadership as the only bill that would be allowed to proceed through session. HB 1446 consisted of many provisions. The main sections would allow certain law enforcement agencies, upon initial detainment, to check the immigration status of any one and also prohibit undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition waivers. HB 1446 was fully expected to be signed into law. Through an unprecedented vote, both opponents and supporters of anti-immigrant bills joined together to vote the final version of the bill down. Opponents of HB 1446 argued that the bill went too far while supports of anti-immigrant bills argued the bill did not go far enough. Their combined efforts rejected the bill.
However, it is fully expected a similar version of this bill will be introduced next year, but for now there is a collective sigh of relief.
Anti- civil liberties bills that were signed into law include:
- HB 1888- prohibits abortions after 20 weeks
- SB 547- prohibits certain private insurance companies from offering abortion coverage
- SB 406- increases distance and time a person may protest a military funeral
- SJR 15- ban equal opportunity programs (will go to a vote of the people Nov. 2012)