Republican Mark Brnovich, Attorney General (AG) of Arizona, has announced that the city of Tucson’s ordinance mandating Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination of government employees violates state laws. The mandate conflicts with Executive Order 2021-18 signed by State Governor Republican Doug Ducey.
Tucson’s ordinance required city employees to present proof of vaccination by Aug. 24 or face suspension for five days without pay. In addition, the employees are at risk of paying higher insurance premiums. Following the announcement of the ordinance, Brnovich’s office initiated an investigation last month.
The state legislature had passed Senate Bill 1824 earlier in the year that specifically prohibited local and state governments from imposing vaccine mandates. Governor Ducey’s executive order was signed in August.
“Any county, city, town or political subdivision official that implements a vaccine mandate contrary to the authorities outlined in this order, is in violation of A.R.S. 36-114 and 36-184 and such actions are punishable by a class 3 misdemeanor and subject to legal action by individuals for violation of their rights under Arizona law,” Ducey’s executive order states.
According to Brnovich’s Sept. 7 press release, Tucson employees can “rely in good faith” on Senate Bill 1824 and executive order 2021-18 to refuse any attempt to get them vaccinated. The City of Tucson has 30 days to rescind the policy. The AG’s office accused Tucson of taking advantage of the fact that Senate Bill 1824 comes into effect on Sept. 29.
“Tucson’s vaccine mandate is illegal, and the city could be held liable for attempting to force employees to take it against their beliefs,” Brnovich said in the press release. Should Tucson refuse to rescind or amend the ordinance in a manner that makes it compliant with state law, it will lose out on millions of dollars worth of state funding.
In a statement to Fox News, Tucson city council member Steve Kozachik pushed back on Brnovich’s assessment, saying that the Attorney General “needs to put away the political science book” and instead read “real science.”
Kozachik insisted that there was “nothing illegal” about the city’s vaccine mandate and that it is in accordance with the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He said that the ordinance is in the “best interest” of public health. Another councilman stated that he stands by the vaccine mandate and “respectfully disagrees” with Brnovich.
Officials from Brnovich’s office reiterated that COVID-19 vaccination “should be a choice” rather than a government mandate. “Adhering to the rule of law in Arizona is not optional. It’s everyone’s responsibility, including the city of Tucson… General Brnovich strongly believes that in all medical and health decisions, all Americans have the right to try and the right not to try, and we can’t have one without the other,” said an official from Brnovich’s office.