Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order on Tuesday to enforce state law against city and county governments requiring their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine in response to Tucson’s vaccine mandate for city employees.
“We encourage all Arizonans to get the vaccine — it's safe, effective and free,” the governor said in a news release. “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 do not make the deadline would face a five-day suspension without pay. The city offered vaccinated employees extra time off as an incentive.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero responded to Ducey’s order in a city-issued statement.
“Gov. Ducey is paving the way for COVID-19 to spread uncontrollably throughout our state,” Romero said, “and attempting to impede those of us who believe in science-based solutions at the local level.”
On Aug. 11, a coalition of 26 Republican legislators issued a statement asking Ducey to take action against school districts requiring masks in opposition to state law.
“Stated plainly, the legislature did its job by passing common sense laws to protect the children and students of Arizona from anti-science mask and vaccine mandates,” the legislators stated, “now we are eager to see the executive branch do its job to ensure that those laws are faithfully executed by the various levels of government within this state.”
Their requests were similar to those of Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Gaynor, who called on Ducey to issue an executive order in response to local school mask mandates only a few days earlier.
Ducey’s order establishes that counties, cities, towns or political subdivisions that enforce a vaccine mandate are subject to legal action for violating state law. Violators will be charged with a class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and up to $500 of fines. It also says that areas that do not provide earned sick leave to employees exposed to COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, violate the Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act, subjecting them to legal action in court or through the Industrial Commission.
“Today’s order builds on our efforts to protect Arizonans from excessive mandates that hinder their freedom to choose what's best for their health,” Ducey stated.
Ducey said that the order is consistent with Senate Bill 1824, which prohibited schools and cities from issuing mask and vaccine mandates. The bill does not become law until Sept. 29, but the executive order is effective immediately.