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Gov. Ducey's fight with Tucson over vaccine mandates could reach beyond COVID-19

By Steve Goldstein, Ben Giles
Published: Thursday, October 21, 2021 - 12:36pm
Updated: Friday, October 22, 2021 - 9:14pm

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On Oct. 19, the Tucson City Council voted 4-3 to approve a mandate requiring city employees to get vaccinated by Dec. 1 or face termination. Nearly 300 of the city’s 4,000 employees have not received a COVID-19 vaccination.

The following day, Gov. Doug Ducey wrote a letter to Tucson City Attorney Mike Rankin accusing the city of being in violation of a state statute protecting religious exemptions from vaccinations.

The letter closes with the governor informing Rankin that “violation of an executive order issued under the authority of an emergency declaration carries a criminal penalty.”

A southern Arizona lawmaker wants Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate whether Tucson’s mandate violates state law. In a letter to Brnovich on Thursday, Republican Sen. Vince Leach echoed arguments from Gov. Doug Ducey’s attorneys.

They say Tucson violated a law that requires the city to give religious exemptions to any worker who seeks one.

The city is allowing employees to request vaccine exemptions for sincerely held religious beliefs. But Leach says state law requires those exemptions be granted, rather than let the city determine to grant it or not.

If the attorney general agrees, Tucson officials would face the choice of altering their vaccine mandate or risk losing more than $100 million a year in revenue shared by the state.

To go through the legalities and what could be next, The Show spoke with Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law professor James Hodge, who specializes in public health policy.

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