By Terri Jo Neff
A bill which would prohibit companies, as well as a state, county, or local government entity from requiring anyone except public school students to prove vaccination status in order to shop, obtain medical services, or receive government aid is on hold while Senate Republicans decide whether to move the bill forward.
Under HB2190, a company conducting business in Arizona would be prohibited from refusing to provide everyday services, transportation, or admission because a person does not divulge whether they have received a particular vaccine. The bill also prohibits a state, county, or local government entity or official from offering anyone a special privilege or incentive to receive a vaccine.
Sponsored by Rep. Bret Roberts (R-LD11) and Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-LD16), HB2190 cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Rules Committee, and the Democrat Caucus last week. However, it has been held up in the Republican Caucus since April 1 due to two issues, AZ Free News has learned.
First, some legislators would like to see the bill amended to ensure certain types of employers can question employees about their vaccination status. Second, a provision of the bill would limit Gov. Doug Ducey’s power to order vaccination of persons diagnosed with, exposed to, or expected to be exposed to certain diseases.
According to Arizona Revised Statues 36-787, a governor can mandate the treatment, vaccination, isolation, and quarantine of persons when there is an occurrence or the imminent threat of smallpox, plague, viral hemorrhagic fevers or “a highly contagious and highly fatal disease” with transmission characteristics similar to smallpox.
HB2190 would revoke the governor’s authority to impose any vaccination requirement during such a public health emergency, but Ducey has been resistant to any attempts by the legislature to diminish his state of emergency powers.
The Senate is expected to reconsider HB2190 later this week. If it passes the Senate it must make it out of the House one more time before being sent to Ducey.
Arizona is not the only state where the question of a vaccination passport is receiving attention. The state of New York is currently sponsoring a smartphone app which can store the user’s COVID-19 vaccination or testing status, although it’s unclear how many companies -and which industries- may wish to utilize such a feature.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has already addressed the “vaccination passport” option by issuing an executive order banning businesses in the state from demanding proof of any vaccination in order to receive service. He has also banned local and state agencies from requiring or even issuing such a document.
Similar opposition is growing in Arkansas and Texas.
In addition, the World Health Organization recently took a position against the use of vaccination passports for international travel, citing “critical unknowns” about the effectiveness of the vaccines and the ability to verify the authenticity of the information. The possibility of vaccination passports is also of concern for the ACLU.
“Any immunity passport system endangers privacy rights by creating a new surveillance infrastructure to collect health data,” the ACLU has said. “It is one thing for an employee to voluntarily disclose their COVID-19 status to an employer on a one-off basis. But it is another for that information to be collected and retained, either by the government or by private companies offering immunity certifications.”