As the 2022 Arizona Legislative season winds down, Gov. Doug Ducey is signing a slew of bills. On Wednesday, he signed 12, including the Goldwater Institute’s Release Time Reform Act and a bill protecting religious freedom in adoptions and foster care.
The Goldwater Institute (GI) drafted SB 1166, which was sponsored by State Senator Vincent Leach (R-Tucson), to address the problem where public employees at the local, state, and federal level are “released” from their government responsibilities and instead are assigned to work for a private union — all while receiving full government pay, benefits, and retirement.
GI performed a study, looking at public sector workers around the country including employees of the city of Phoenix, and found that “Arizona’s capital city allowed 67,511 hours of paid union release time at a cost of about $3.7 million last fiscal year.”
“Public funds should advance the public’s interest, not the political and lobbying activities of private labor unions,” said Goldwater Institute President and CEO Victor Riches. “This law will ensure that tax dollars cannot be used to pay government workers to lobby and engage in political activities for labor unions instead of working for the public.”
SB 1399, sponsored by State Senator Sine Kerr (R-Yuma), protects religious freedom for those involved in adoption and foster care by allowing Christians and others with sacred beliefs to choose whether or not to have an LGBT lifestyle as part of a family, whether by facilitating it or as the family in question. They cannot be sued over it or treated differently, and the state cannot take adverse action against parents who raise children in accordance with their religious beliefs.
Spearheaded by the family organization Center for Arizona Policy, the bill also allows state government to “consider whether a person shares the same religious belief or exercise of religion with an adopted child or foster child” when determining where to place the child.
Parents who disagree with adoption or foster care agencies who exercise their religious freedom here have alternatives. “Protecting religious freedom in this instance takes nothing away from anybody because couples that don’t wish to work with the faith-based organization are free to work with the other private providers or even directly with the state.” said Greg Chafuen, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom who supports the legislation.
Opponents say they will sue the state over the law, but the Supreme Court has held that this is protected free exercise of religion. Recently, the city of Philadelphia refused to contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) for foster care and adoption placement because CSS would not certify same-sex couples as foster parents. CSS sued, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that the city discriminated against Catholic Social Services by violating its free exercise of religion.
Nevertheless, discrimination is occurring around the country without statutory protection in place. In Illinois, Catholic Charities was forced to stop operating in 2011 because the state refused to renew its contract since the agency would not place children in homes where there were civil unions.
Ducey also signed SB 1593, another bill from Kerr, which ensures victims of a sexual crime are not charged for any part of the medical or forensic examination related to the crime. Ducey signed SB 1624, sponsored by State Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), a revenge porn bill which makes disclosing or threatening to disclose an intimate photo a sueable offense. SB 2372, sponsored by State Rep. Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix), enhances animal cruelty laws by prohibiting repeat offenders from having any contact with animals while on parole.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Doug Ducey” by Doug Ducey. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.