Another Arizona legislative session draws to a close and AFSC Arizona has succeeded in passing another bill that has been signed by the Governor! This is the second year of our concentrated efforts to develop and advocate for smart, proven legislative changes to Arizona’s harsh sentencing policies. The political climate requires an incremental approach – working to develop relationships with key stakeholders and establish AFSC as a policy “player” in Arizona.
The bill that AFSC Arizona helped pass last year initiated an evaluation of the state’s mental health courts, to provide a strong foundation of basic standards for current and future mental health courts. The state’s Administrative Office of the Courts is overseeing the evaluation, and AFSC Arizona is part of the cross-organizational Supreme Court committee that will review findings from the evaluator.
This legislative session one AFSC Arizona sponsored bill, HB2307, has been signed by the Governor. HB2307 encourages the creation of a deferred prosecution fund in counties that increase pre-trial deferred prosecution. Deferred prosecution programs allow people arrested to engage in treatment programs before being formally charged. If they successfully complete the program, the charges are dropped, helping them avoid a conviction on their record that could bar them from employment, housing, and other opportunities for the rest of their lives.
AFSC Arizona also supported the passage of HB2457, which allows Superior Court judges to institute Veteran’s Courts and Mental Health Courts. This bill has also passed and been signed into law by the Governor.
This legislative session involved much give and take with a variety of stakeholders, including legislators and lobbyists, each with their vested interests. But that’s also the power of working at the legislature. We get to understand each other’s perspectives and move toward relationships that will result in meaningful change. We are confident that we are continuing to build a reputation as a smart, committed, and reasonable organization that can work effectively “across the aisle” to promote effective policy to preserve and enhance public safety.