Thursday, May 5, 2022

The Daily Agenda: A Ballot Measure for Abortion?

Posted By on Thu, May 5, 2022 at 8:48 AM

click to enlarge The Daily Agenda: A Ballot Measure for Abortion?
Will they be gathering signatures next?

Don't wait on the Democrats to win the statehouse ... These people love sending each other letters ... And a mascot after our own hearts.

Editor's note: The Arizona Agenda is a Substack newsletter about Arizona government and politics run by Rachel Leingang and Hank Stephenson. You can find their archives and subscribe at

Arizona advocacy groups that want to protect access to abortions have one clear option: a citizen initiative.

It’s too late to put one on the 2022 ballot. And the bar is high for signatures, especially on a constitutional amendment, which would be the likely method for a measure protecting abortion rights. Plus, the U.S. Supreme Court still hasn’t actually released a formal opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Mississippi abortion case that could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade precedent. At this point, abortion is still legal.

Abortion rights activists are eyeing 2024, a presidential election year, to bring something to the ballot.

“I’ve been on three calls since Monday where folks are actively talking about what that would look like for 2024,” progressive lobbyist Marilyn Rodriguez told us.

The last time Arizonans were asked about abortion on their ballots was 1992, when an initiative sought to ban abortion entirely, with limited exceptions. It failed spectacularly: More than 68% of voters voted against it.

If the ruling holds true, access to abortion in red states will be relegated to women with the money and time to travel to blue states. California politicians say they want to protect abortion access in their state constitution, and clinics there are preparing to become an abortion haven by making sure they’re in accessible locations and have enough staff to handle an influx of out-of-staters.

While political parties and the press often treat access to abortion
as a black and white, 50-50 issue, it’s not. Depending on how how the question worded, there’s wide support for some level of access to abortion. 

The New York Times took a stab at calculating state-by-state support for abortion rights, and even in Arizona, the “mostly legal” category far outweighs the percent of voters who believe it should be “mostly illegal.”

Arizona is already seeing the effects of abortion restrictions: Some women have come from Texas, where abortion is effectively banned at about six weeks gestation, to Arizona recently to get care, providers told the Republic’s Stephanie Innes.

Companies like Amazon and Levi Strauss have announced programs to fund employees who may need to travel to get abortion care. But we haven’t seen much from Arizona-based companies, whose employees may actually need to cross state lines to get an abortion in the near future.

We want to continue covering abortion, but we want to hear what stories you think are missing on the topic locally. Do you have any ideas? Do you think there’s already plenty of coverage? Leave a comment or shoot us an email.

Besides the life-altering questions that women and families will now face
about their health and medical decisions, the ruling of course raises a host of political questions. What will the leaked opinion and the forthcoming ruling mean for the midterms? Will it animate Democratic voters, who were preparing for a wash-out year at the polls? 

A ballot measure is probably abortion advocates’ best hope to ensure people of all income levels can get an abortion. Two years is a long time, but after nearly 50 years of debate over Roe, the seismic shift that the ruling represents will almost certainly spark a backlash on the left.

Pivot back to sane: After Maricopa County officials tried earlier this week to get ahead of the next election’s conspiracies, county officials yesterday took aim at the source of the latest round of bullshit: Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Supervisors unanimously voted to send a 59-page report critiquing and debunking his 12-page “interim report” while questioning his intelligence and integrity. Brnovich, recently spurned by Trump following his report, fired back with a Nice Guy video wondering why can’t we all get along.

It’s an Arizona story with a national angle: The New York Times details how Arizona prosecutors botched or dropped the prosecution of Isaiah Camacho, a tattoo artist who goes by “Toothtaker” (because he allegedly ripped a man’s tooth out) after he allegedly committed a string of sexual and physical assaults against Arizona women. The case unraveled after he “catfished” a lawyer at Arizona AG’s Office, which then sent the case to Pinal County Attorney, which didn’t want the case and declined to prosecute. 

“According to two people familiar with the situation, the Arizona attorney general’s office became concerned that a leading prosecutor on the case had sent sexual messages to someone he thought was a woman who worked as a bartender. But prosecutors believed Mr. Camacho had been posing as the bartender in an effort to ‘catfish’ the lawyer, according to an internal email obtained by The Times,” Ali Watkins writes.

Pray it’s swift: The state is likely going to execute Clarence Dixon, who murdered an ASU student in 1978, after a Pinal County judge declared he was mentally competent, despite having schizophrenia, and denied of his last avenues to delay or cancel the hearing, the Republic’s Jimmy Jenkins reports. Gov. Doug Ducey, who has no formal role in whether the executions proceed, told Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer that he believes the death penalty is warranted as a way to provide justice in certain cases, despite his stance as a pro-life Catholic.

Up in smoke: Winners of the “social equity license” lottery are finding that because of some cities’ local zoning regulations, they may not be able to open their dispensaries in time to meet the state-mandated deadline, if at all, the Republic’s Ryan Randazzo reports.

The new big lie: As we noted last week, Tucson beat Phoenix on its first 100-degree day of the year. Or did it? Tucson weather truthers find the temperature reading suspicious because it simply doesn’t make logical sense, the Arizona Daily Star’s Tim Steller writes. The airport reading jumped several degrees for no reason at a time when the days leading up to the alleged 100-degree day weren’t gaining heat momentum. And the readings elsewhere in Tucson didn’t hit 100. There are no real consequences for the reading being wrong, but weather types are flummoxed.  

This is great, now do it more: Five affordable housing projects funded with $27 million in Maricopa County’s COVID-19 relief funds should bring 750 new units around the Phoenix area to address the dire need for stable affordable housing, the Republic’s Jessica Boehm reports. 

Are we going to have to read this book now?: New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns’ new book details a heated moment in Build Back Better negotiations between U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and President Joe Biden where Sinema nearly left Biden’s office, Business Insider reports. The tension arose from Biden sharing details of Sinema’s objections on the plan with other Democrats.

Millions vs billions: After the eye-popping $1.7 million payout to its superintendent, staff in the Buckeye Elementary School District are drawing attention to their low salaries and want Superintendent Kristi Wilson to resign, the Republic’s Yana Kunichoff reports. Meanwhile, the Arizona Education Association wants $1.7 billion in additional school funding from the surplus the state is sitting on, University of Arizona Don Bolles fellow Gloria Gomez reports.

Dogs are gonna be pissed: Arizona cities haven’t restricted residential water usage yet, but it might be time for them to consider curtailing stuff like lawn-watering like some parts of California and Nevada have, Arizona Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke told the Republic’s Brandon Loomis.

In it for the long haul: Long-COVID-19 sufferers told KJZZ’s Katherine Davis-Young what it’s like to live with ongoing symptoms — everything from exhaustion to a stroke — of the virus that never quits.

Today in shameless self-promotion: Hank gave KJZZ’s Lauren Gilger a brief overview of how redistricting changed the congressional landscape and which congressional districts will be the ones to watch.  

And speaking of shameless self-promotion, we need your paid subscriptions to help us stay afloat as we near the end of our funding from Substack’s local venture. Help us help you stay up to date by paying $8 per month.
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Republican lawmakers’ desire to prohibit schools from creating and enforcing vaccine mandates on minors — something no Arizona school has tried to do — hit a snag this week, though the bill is probably not dead. 

Senate President Karen Fann put House Bill 2371 up for a vote even though the required 16 Republicans necessary to pass the bill didn’t show up for work. It failed, but will likely come back to life next week via a “reconsideration” vote. 

While perusing Republican U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters’ many gun-related tweets, Hank stumbled upon one that stood out for its awesomeness. We have no idea if the legend he cites is true, but we’re pretty stoked to learn we Eastern Arizona College has a mascot named Gila Hank