The city of Tucson initially backed off of mandating the COVID-19 vaccine after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued a legal opinion declaring it was illegal, but Tucson has now reversed itself again with a new 4-3 vote by the Tucson City Council. Any Tucson employee not in compliance by December 1 will be fired. Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted that it was “unfathomable” and had his General Counsel Annie Foster send City Attorney Mike Rankin a letter about the matter.
“It’s unfathomable that after a year as tough as last, the Tucson City Council voted to FIRE unvaccinated city employees,” Ducey tweeted. “The state Legislature has spoken on this issue — they want Arizonans and their sincerely held beliefs to be protected from overreaching mandates.”
It’s unfathomable that after a year as tough as last, the Tucson City Council voted to FIRE unvaccinated city employees. The state Legislature has spoken on this issue — they want Arizonans and their sincerely held beliefs to be protected from overreaching mandates. 1/ pic.twitter.com/EQMrLaN5Hm
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) October 20, 2021
The letter reiterated that the city is breaking the law, and reminded them that it was criminal.
“As you, the Mayor and Council are well aware, violation of state law implicates A.R.S. 41-194.01 and violation of an executive order issued under the authority of an emergency declaration carries a criminal penalty,” the letter says.
Ducey’s Executive Order 2021-18 prohibits local and state governments from implementing vaccine mandates.
He took issue with Tucson’s lack of compliance with the reasonable accommodation for religious views. Tucson’s directive says an employee may “request” an accommodation, but the law says an employee merely has to provide notice. The letter said a majority of employees up for termination requested a religious exemption but were denied.
Tucson cites the fact a Maricopa County Superior Court judge held last month that state laws banning vaccine and mask mandates were unconstitutional because they were piled into just four separate so-called “budget reconciliation” bills, each with what she said are broad, generic titles that fail to inform voters of the changes they enact. That decision is now on appeal at the Arizona Supreme Court. At the time, Brnovich vowed to appeal and tweeted, “It’s unfortunate that left-wing groups want to undermine the legislative process and indoctrinate our children with critical race theory and force vaccines on those who don’t want them.”
We will appeal this ruling.
It’s unfortunate that left-wing groups want to undermine the legislative process and indoctrinate our children with critical race theory and force vaccines on those who don’t want them. https://t.co/mh6THreV63
— Mark Brnovich (@GeneralBrnovich) September 27, 2021
However, Ducey’s letter pointed out that Cooper did not strike down the portion of the law requiring the city to accommodate any employee who requests a vaccination exemption for religious reasons. Additionally, the letter reminded Tucson that Ducey’s executive order banning vaccine mandates is still in effect.
Sen. Vincent Leach (R-Tucson) submitted a SB 1487 request to the Arizona attorney general’s office, citing Ducey’s letter and asking whether Tucson is acting illegally. If Brnovich finds that Tucson is, he is required to order the state treasurer to withhold its state funds. Brnovich filed a lawsuit last month against the Biden administration for requiring businesses with 100 employees or more to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine.
Rankin responded back with a sarcastic letter to Foster, asserting that 80 percent of the religious exemption requests had been granted. He said Ducey’s executive order has no legal effect.
According to City Manager Michael Ortega, approximately 300 of the city’s nearly 4,000 employees have refused to get the vaccine. Jobe Dickinson, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Arizona, warned that the city of Tucson could lose 50 police officers over the mandate.
At the same time, it is not clear whether Ducey is going to do anything about the vaccine mandates that were just implemented at the state’s three universities. The state law struck down by Cooper would have prohibited those mandates. Gubernatorial press aide C.J. Karamargin told Arizona Capitol Media, “We are reviewing their decisions.” University of Arizona President Robert Robbins says “very, very few” employees will be denied an exemption.
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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].
Background Photo “Tucson City Hall” by Kevin Dooley. CC BY 2.0.