What to Expect from the 2022 Legislative Session
January 10th marks the start of a new legislative session in Arizona. Get a preview of what to watch out for, what you can expect from us, and more in this newsletter.
January 10th marks the start of a new regular session in the Arizona legislature, and like every year, we rely on you to create structures of accountability for your legislators on issues of LGBTQ equality, so from today until the legislature adjourns sine die, we’ll be using this newsletter to share updates on important bills and what you can do to make a difference.
Heading into this session, there’s a few key externalities to keep in mind.
Redistricting and the 2022 elections. While an ordinary session might last around 100 days, last year’s dragged on all the way to June 30. If this year’s session takes a similar course, it won’t adjourn until a week before early voting begins for the 2022 primaries. With new electoral maps just decided and an open race for Governor, expect campaign season to loom large over the legislative process.
Empty seats in the Senate and House. A wave of resignations has left a significant number of vacancies on both the Senate and House member rosters, with legislators leaving to run for higher office, to pursue different careers, or even to fill vacancies left by their peers. This turbulence will be an important factor throughout the session, and is a good opportunity to reflect on the motivations of the individuals who serve in our legislature. Understanding on a personal level what drives your legislators to do their jobs is key to engaging them in productive conversations.
No remote testimony. In a departure from last year’s session, and despite the continuing severity of the pandemic, the legislature has decided not to allow remote testimony this year. This introduces obvious safety and accessibility challenges, and we’ll work with you over the course of the session to mitigate those challenges and provide clear avenues for advocacy.
In 2021, we faced a host of dangerous anti-LGBTQ bills in the Arizona legislature, from a measure to block cities from banning conversion therapy to a bill granting clergy blanket protections from civil and criminal liability for any action, including abuse. Historically, and across the nation, many of the bills we’ve seen target schools and students. One strategy deploys a distorted idea of parental rights to introduce obstacles to sexual health education. Like the recent national backlash to critical race theory, many bills manufacture their own debates, inviting outrage and popular support for a “solution” without a problem. Even when bills like this don’t pass, they carry an enormous cost to our political discourse and to the subjects of their false controversies. Transgender youth have become a common target for this strategy, something we’ll see more of this session.
The reality of our current legislature means that opportunities for positive and proactive change are limited at the state level, so while we continue to pursue nondiscrimination protections at the municipal and federal levels, building on our victories from 2021, much of what we can accomplish this session in the legislature will be to hold back attacks on LGBTQ equality. Because of this, it’s important to anticipate the way those bills will work to shape the conversation to their advantage, and to find ways to redirect it on our own terms, reflecting the needs and lived realities of LGBTQ individuals and families in Arizona.
Bills to Watch Out For
HB 2011: Sponsored by Representative Kavanagh, this bill would extend the parental opt-in model used to limit access to education on sexual health and LGBT topics to a new target: student groups and clubs like GSA’s. Parents would have to provide written permission for their student to join "any school student group or club involving sexuality, gender or gender identity," language mirroring the phrase “sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression” from last session’s SB 1456 – a bill vetoed by Governor Ducey for being too vague. The trick of HB 2011 is this: instead of groups for students, they’re groups about something. It abstracts the real people – LGBTQ kids trying to make the most of their education – out of the equation altogether, making it into an argument about the “topics” of a group or a club, with the implicit premise that those topics are objectionable.
SB 1045: The first section of this bill aims to force school counselors, nurses, and teachers to out trans students in their care to potentially unsupportive family members, positioning this requirement within a series of fear-mongering prohibitions against imaginary teachers who would “encourage or coerce a minor child to withhold” their identity from a parent. In its second section, SB 1045 bans virtually all transition care for minors, including puberty blockers, and threatens healthcare providers with a class 4 felony for prescribing them. The bill, sponsored by Senator Rogers, is filled with loaded and clumsy language, stumbling over itself to introduce an exception for the actually coercive surgeries performed on intersex children. While this version may have too much baggage to pass, simply by being introduced it contributes to a hostile climate for trans youth.
SB 1046: Also from Senator Rogers, SB 1046 is the first trans athlete bill of the session. As constructed, it bans “students of the male sex” from school sports “designated for females, women, or girls,” and requires an invasive series of genital inspections, hormone tests, and genetic analysis to prove a student’s gender if “disputed.” Other provisions of the bill allow students who feel wronged by the presence of their trans peers to seek damages against their school. As with SB 1045, while this particular bill may not pass, that doesn’t make it harmless, and with both of Senator Rogers’s bills, we’ll need to be ready for more polished versions to be introduced by more popular lawmakers.
Save the Date | Equality Lobby Day
On Wednesday, February 23rd, we’ll join our partner organizations across the state to host Equality Lobby Day, an opportunity to gain skills for effective advocacy, to have face-to-face conversations with legislators, and to make a direct impact on the issues you care about. We’re proceeding with care when it comes to the risks of covid-19, and plan to make this event as safe, accessible, and impactful as possible. Registration will open soon, and we’ll be following up with more information shortly.
Throughout the session, you can count on us to keep you up to date with action alerts on key bills, regular policy briefings, town halls, and opportunities for in-depth policy workshops. In an upcoming newsletter, we’ll provide an overview of what to expect from the 2022 midterm elections. Thank you for your support of Equality Arizona!