PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Tuesday said Tucson’s vaccine mandate for his employees was illegal, giving the city 30 days to repeal it or risk losing millions of dollars in public funding.
Democrat-led Tucson has repeatedly clashed with Republican leaders in the state over the city’s aggressive efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. A spokesperson for Tucson mayor Regina Romero did not immediately respond to an email and phone call asking for comment on Brnovich’s decision.
Brnovich, who is running for the US Senate in an overcrowded Republican primary, cited a state law approved this summer that bans local governments from requiring vaccines for employees, which does not come into effect until later this month. -this. He also cited an August executive order signed by Republican Governor Doug Ducey.
Tucson policy requires employees to get vaccinated “as soon as reasonably possible” or submit a religious or medical exemption. Those who did not receive a first dose on August 24 faced a five-day work suspension without pay, but it was not immediately clear whether the city sanctioned someone for missing the deadline.
The policy also allows the city to charge higher health insurance premiums for unvaccinated workers and require them to wear masks and be tested regularly.
A Pima County judge last month rejected a request by the Tucson Police Union to stop the vaccine’s warrant.
In an Aug. 30 letter to the Attorney General’s office, city attorney Mike Rankin wrote that the vaccine requirement for Tucson employees does not violate state law and said the executive order of Ducey didn’t make sense.
State law preventing cities from adopting employee vaccination mandates was incorporated into the state budget in late June, a common practice that is challenged by Phoenix in a separate case claiming that slipping unrelated policies in the budget violate the Arizona Constitution.
Brnovich’s decision falls under a 2016 law that allows any lawmaker to ask the attorney general to investigate whether a local ordinance or policy violates state laws.
It was passed amid the GOP’s frustration with policies adopted by Democratic-led cities. If the attorney general decides that local policy conflicts with state law, a city or county has 30 days to repeal it or lose its share of state tax revenue, which is a significant share. local government budgets.
Tucson collected more than $ 64 million in state sales taxes in the year ending June 30, representing 11% of its general fund revenue.
The complaint about Tucson’s vaccine tenure was brought by Senator Kelly Townsend, a Republican from Mesa who has been one of the Legislature’s most vocal critics of pandemic restrictions.
Separately, a coalition of educators, parents and advocates have taken legal action to try to overturn Arizona’s new laws that restrict local COVID-19 requirements. A hearing is scheduled for September 13.
At least 29 Arizona public school districts have adopted their own mask requirements, representing more than 334,000 students and nearly 500 schools.
The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 1,982 new cases of COVID-19 and 54 deaths on Tuesday. About 56% of the state’s residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
When Tucson officials adopted the vaccination mandate last month, they estimated that around 1,000 city employees were unvaccinated. It was not immediately clear how many had still not been shot.
Brnovich published a legal notice last month saying companies can require their employees and customers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but must allow reasonable religious and medical exemptions. He said government agencies are different because the legislature specifically prohibited them from adopting mandates on vaccines.