Arizona voters to decide on ballot measure to guarantee life imprisonment for child sex trafficking

Arizona voters will decide on a ballot measure that would guarantee a life sentence for persons who are found guilty of sex trafficking of a minor child. The measure will appear on the Nov. 5, 2024, ballot.

The amendment, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1021 (SCR 1021), was sponsored by Arizona Sen. Shawnna Bolick (R-2) and introduced to the Senate on February 1, 2024. It passed the Senate on March 11 by a 20-8 vote, and passed the House on March 18 by a 31-27 vote. Statutes do not require the governor’s signature to be referred to the ballot.

SCR 1021 would provide a life sentence for anyone convicted of a Class 2 felony for child sex trafficking pursuant to Section 13-3212 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. Under Arizona law, this covers a person who causes a minor to be used in prostitution or uses a minor for the purposes of prostitution. This section also includes transporting, recruiting, or providing for a minor to engage in prostitution or any sexually explicit performance.

Arizona Rep. Selina Bliss (R-1), who sponsored an identical version of the legislation in the House, said, “We’re sending a strong message here in Arizona that our children are not for sale. Not now, not ever.”

Arizona Rep. Analise Ortiz (D-24) said the measure would unintentionally target minors who themselves are victims of sex trafficking. She said, “This is something that the experts in sex trafficking know it happens that there are victims who are used to coerce other victims into the trade. That is the harsh reality, and we do not want those minors who have been severely traumatized locked up because of this bill.”

Currently, a conviction of sex trafficking of a minor between the ages of 15 and 17 could result in a sentence of 10 to 35 years in prison. An individual found guilty of sex trafficking a minor under 15 years old is charged with a “dangerous crime against children” under Section 13-705 of Arizona Revised Statutes, and can be sentenced to life in prison.

An additional five ballot measures have been certified for the general election ballot so far. These are:

  • An amendment that would allow the state legislature to terminate a state of emergency or alter the emergency powers granted to the governor during a state of emergency.
  • An amendment that would require partisan primary elections for partisan offices.
  • An amendment that would create a signature distribution requirement for citizen-initiated ballot measures based on state legislative districts.
  • A measure that would establish a $20 fee on every conviction for a criminal offense, which would go toward a benefit of $250,000 for the family of a first responder who is killed in the line of duty.
  • A measure that would allow property owners to apply for a property tax refund if a city or locality does not enforce public nuisance laws.