Arizona AG declares Tucson’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate illegal

‘Wewill not allow discrimination based on vaccination status,’ Mark Brnovich says.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
Arizona Attorney General's Office

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Tuesday the city of Tucson’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate violates state law. The Attorney General’s Office is giving the city 30 days to amend or rescind the ordinance before losing millions in state funding.

According to the AGO’s news release, the policy violates Senate Bill 1487 and Gov. Doug Ducey’s Aug. 17 executive order, which enforced state law against city and county governments requiring their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine in response to Tucson’s vaccine mandate.

“We encourage all Arizonans to get the vaccine – it's safe, effective and free,” Brnovich said in a news release about the order. “But getting it is a personal choice, and we will not allow discrimination based on vaccination status.”

On Aug. 13, the Tucson City Council voted to require that city workers show proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Aug. 24. Employees who did not make the deadline are faced with a five-day suspension without pay.

“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 news release. “COVID-19 vaccinations should be a choice, not a government mandate.”

If Tucson does not rescind its policy, the AGO will notify the Arizona Treasurer to withhold the city’s portion of state shared revenue until the city complies with state law. In addition, the city could face liability claims from employees, the news release said.

In response, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said it was “deeply unfortunate” that Brnovich was prioritizing “his political ambitions above the law.”

“This report reads more as a campaign speech filled with political commentary rather than a fact-based legal opinion,” she 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.”

Tucson Attorney Mike Rankin said that the law the vaccine mandate allegedly violated does not go into effect until Sept. 29.

City Manager Michael Ortega defended the validity of the vaccine policy but said the city would pause implementation indefinitely.

“Until we have a better understanding of our legal position in relation to today’s report, I have instructed staff to pause on the implementation of the policy,” he stated.