Arizona governor vetoes bill expanding religious exemption from vaccine mandates

Hobbs said the legislation would negatively impact small businesses.

Published: March 31, 2023 11:21pm

(The Center Square) -

Gov. Katie Hobbs has vetoed a bill that would have broadened an employee’s ability to claim a religious vaccine exemption at businesses and take action against employers through the Attorney General’s office if they were fired over refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Hobbs said the Senate Bill 1250 would negatively impact small businesses, particularly with the proposed $5,000 civil penalty on employers from the AG’s office.

“This bill is unnecessary, as legal protections for an employee’s religious beliefs already exist in federal employment law,” Hobbs said in her veto letter to Senate President Warren Petersen. “This bill also threatens employers with a civil penalty and a hefty fine, which could be devastating for Arizona’s many small businesses.”

The movement to allow for greater allowance of religious vaccine exemptions heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which many employers required that their workers get the vaccine or risk losing their job, particularly in healthcare settings.

“I spent my entire career as a nurse, being an advocate for my patients and ensuring that their beliefs are respected and protected,” Senator Janae Shamp said in a statement. “The reason I’m here at the Senate, is because I was fired from my job as a nurse after refusing to get the experimental COVID-19 vaccine. My top priority is this bill because during the pandemic, Americans’ medical freedoms were taken from them, myself included. For me, the Governor’s veto is personal. Not just for me but for every Arizonan who lost their job in the same manner.”

The bill specifically said that employers would be required to provide an exemption form for the “COVID-19 vaccination, influenza A or B vaccination, or flu vaccination or any vaccination authorized by the United States Food and Drug Administration for emergency use only.” It also included provisions that would prevent discrimination based on vaccination status for employees.

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