Arizona Attorney General Brnovich Issues Legal Opinion Declaring the City of Tucson’s Vaccine Mandate for Employees Illegal

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued a legal opinion on Tuesday stating that the City of Tucson’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees violates S.B. 1824 (soon to be A.R.S. 36-681) and Gov. Doug Ducey’s Executive Order 2021-18 prohibiting local and state governments from implementing them. Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) submitted a SB 1487 request for the investigation.

“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. “COVID-19 vaccinations should be a choice, not a government mandate.” His spokeswoman, Katie Conner, told reporters during a phone call, “Adhering to the rule of law in Arizona is not optional.”

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Demand for Gov. Ducey’s School Vouchers to Leave Arizona Schools That Mandate Masks or Require Unvaccinated Students to Quarantine Exceeds Funds

Doug Ducey

Just three weeks after Gov. Doug Ducey announced that school districts issuing mask mandates or requiring vaccinated students to quarantine would be penalized by diverting money to students to use as school vouchers to attend elsewhere, demand has exceeded the $20 million he allotted by twice the amount. Ducey announced on August 17 that money the state received from the federal government through the pandemic-generated American Rescue Plan to boost per-pupil spending would not go to any of those schools.

Ducey made the announcement immediately following a demand on August 11 from Republican state legislators to take action regarding those school districts. They suggested that Ducey could withhold federal funds and offer vouchers, which he did, but he did not go so far as following their recommendation of suing the school districts.

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Arizona School Officials Pushing Mask Mandate Caught Not Wearing Masks

Some Arizona school officials are in a feud with Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Legislature over implementing mandatory mask policies, but some of those officials have been caught not wearing masks themselves. Arizona Superintendent of Schools Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat, was spotted not wearing one along with others at a baby shower. Not a single person present had a mask on or was social distancing. Amphitheater Public Schools, which mandated masks on August 16, posted a photo of their Communications Director Michelle Valenzuela, posing without a mask on, clearly standing within a couple of feet of the photographer. They deleted the tweet.

Ducey is confident the school mask mandates will not hold up in court. He said earlier in August, “COVID has been with us for well over a year and a half now, and Arizonans are educated about it. If they want to wear masks, they should absolutely do so. It’s an individual choice. No one and no law anywhere in Arizona is stopping anyone from wearing masks. Ultimately, these mandates are toothless, unenforceable and will not hold up in court.”

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Biden Commends Phoenix School District That Violated Ban on Mask Requirements

Biden Commends Phoenix School District

President Joe Biden called the head of Phoenix Union High School District after the district implemented mask requirements that may be contrary to state law, praising Superintendent Chad Geston for the move. In a statement, Biden said he told Geston during his Friday phone call that he “did the right thing.” 

The issue is currently under litigation in Maricopa County Superior Court. Numerous state legislators asked Governor Doug Ducey a few days ago to take action against the school districts in violation, and Ducey responded on Tuesday with a directive financially penalizing the districts. They will not receive any of the $163 million that the state got through the American Rescue Plan to boost per-pupil funding. Students in those districts will receive vouchers to attend schools elsewhere.

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Arizona Republican State Legislators Ask Governor to Take Action Regarding School Districts Violating Law on Mask Mandates

Doug Ducey and Jake Hoffman

Twenty-six Republican members of the Arizona Legislature signed onto a letter drafted by Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) asking Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to take four steps of action in regards to several school districts that appear to be violating state law by imposing mask mandates in schools. A high school biology teacher recently filed a lawsuit over the mandate implemented by Phoenix Union High School District. The school districts contend that the law, A.R.S. 15-342.05, doesn’t apply yet since bills do not go into effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, but the bill contains a retroactive clause. 

“It borders on anarchy and destabilizes the very foundation of our society to have local governments effectively refusing to comply with the law. It must not be allowed to stand,” the legislators said. “Any local government that willfully and intentionally flaunts state law must be held accountable.”

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