Arizona AG Brnovich says Tucson vaccine mandate violates state law
PHOENIX – Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Tuesday that Tucson could lose state funding if it enforces its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees.
Brnovich said his office, under the SB 1487 provision of Arizona law, will notify the state treasurer to withhold Tucson’s portion of shared revenue if the vaccine policy isn’t rescinded within 30 days.
“Tucson’s vaccine mandate is illegal and the city could be held liable for attempting to force government employees to take it against their beliefs,” Brnovich, a Republican who is running for U.S. Senate in 2022, said in a press release. “COVID-19 vaccinations should be a choice, not a government mandate.”
Arizona’s second-largest city approved its ordinance requiring employees to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or face a five-day suspension on Aug 13.
Three days later, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order banning cities from implementing COVID vaccine mandates. A similar restriction on local governments had already been passed into state law, but it doesn’t go into effect until Sept. 29.
Brnovich issued his legal opinion Tuesday in response to an SB 1487 complaint – a process by which a state legislator can ask the attorney general to investigate whether a local government policy violates the state constitution — filed by state Republican Sen. Kelly Townsend.
“That elected city officials continue to attempt to exploit a perceived timing loophole in order to force irreversible vaccinations on their entire workforce, including police and fire employees who daily risk their lives to protect the public, is highly troubling,” Brnovich’s report says.
Townsend submitted the complaint on Aug. 17. The attorney general must issue an opinion within 30 days after an SB 1487 complaint is filed.
“There is no doubt that the ordinance squarely violates state law,” Brnovich’s report says.
Tucson officials questioned Brnovich’s findings.
“This report reads more as a campaign speech filled with political commentary rather than a fact-based legal opinion,” Mayor Regina Romero said in a statement. “We are currently reviewing our options, and mayor and council will need to provide direction as to how we proceed from here.”