Criticism continues to mount in response to comments by President Joe Biden earlier this month about public health professionals possibly going door-to-door across the country to encourage people to receive one of the COVID-19 vaccinations.
Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs joined with 31 other lawmakers who comprise the House Freedom Caucus in sending a letter to Biden last week, calling it “deeply disturbing” that the federal government may be in the process of tracking the private health information of millions of Americans. Other Arizonans in the House Freedom Caucus who signed the letter were Rep. Paul Gosar, Rep. Debbie Lesko, and Rep. David Schweikert.
“There is no scenario where the federal government should be actively entering communities and traveling door-to-door to pressure Americans to receive a vaccine,” the July 9 letter states. “COVID-19 vaccine information is widely available throughout the country, and Americans have every ability to decide for themselves whether or not they should receive a vaccine.”
The letter was prompted by the President’s July 6 comments about the possibility of members of the U.S. COVID-19 Response Team going ““community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood and oftentimes door-to-door, literally knocking on doors, to get help to the remaining people.”
The letter asks for a response by July 23 to a series of questions related to what activities the Biden Administration has undertaken, or plans to undertake, connected to vaccination databases.
Biggs, who chairs the House Freedom Caucus, made additional comments after the letter was sent.
“Instead of meddling in private medical decisions, the Biden administration should focus on addressing the border crisis, the rampant rise in inflation, and the crime wave that is plaguing American cities – all crises it created,” Biggs said. “The door-to-door spying on Americans is one more example of the burgeoning surveillance state by the national government.”
The House Freedom Caucus letter is just the latest criticism directed at Biden’s comments. Two more governors spoke out late last week about the suggestion of personal reach-out to unvaccinated Americans.
“The prospect of government vaccination teams showing up unannounced or unrequested at the door of ‘targeted’ homeowners or on their property will further deteriorate the public’s trust,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said in a statement.
In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson tweeted that “sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination” would not be an effective nor welcome strategy in his state.
But despite the criticism, the prospect of a “who has been vaccinated” database may not be difficult to create. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) have been behind a COVID-19 tracking smartphone app that was been promoted by tens of thousands of doctors and nurses.
Called v-safe, the app is described as an after-vaccination “health checker” which users register with to answer surveys about side effects and to report dates of vaccinations. Parents can also register dependents under their v-safe account.
“Your healthcare provider will give you an information sheet on v-safe that explains how to register and get started,” according to the CDC website. “Through v-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers to the web surveys, someone from CDC may call to check on you and get more information.”
As to the confidentiality of a v-safe user’s information, the CDC website notes that “to the extent v–safe uses existing information systems managed by CDC, FDA, and other federal agencies, the systems employ strict security measures appropriate for the data’s level of sensitivity.”
UPDATE: At approximately 8:30 p.m., the Senate passed the primary budget bill and worked until 2:30 a.m. to pass all of the 11 budget bills including the tax cut.
Arizona lawmakers are nearly halfway toward approving what Sen. JD Mesnard calls a “once in a lifetime overhaul” of the state’s tax system, but whether the other half get approves this week is still in question.
As of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Senate had passed 8 of the 11 budget bills on a 16 to 14 margin in a marathon day of amendments, commentary, and votes which was continuing as of press time. Among those eight were appropriation bills for higher education, criminal justice, health, environment, capital outlays, and transportation.
It also included the tax omnibus and revenue bills which are two of the three priorities of the legislature’s majority Republican caucus. And among the legislation were several amendments offered by senators which matched a variety of bills that failed to pass earlier in the session.
One amendment offered to the health budget bill, SB1824, came from Senate President Karen Fann to codify Gov. Doug Ducey’s recent executive order prohibiting COVID-19 vaccinations for community college and university students. It appears, however, that the prohibition is only valid while those vaccinations are offered under “emergency” approval.
That is one of the amended bills the State House is expected to consider on Thursday. None of the budget bills were discussed by the House on Tuesday because 28 of the 29 Democrats in the chamber failed to show up.
The maneuver by the minority party caused a lack of quorum due to the fact four of the 31 Republicans were participating remotely. House rules allow members to vote remotely but for purposes of determining a legal quorum there must be at least 31 representatives present on the floor or in their official House office.
In explaining his support of the budget bills, Mesnard cited several features, including an appropriation toward paying down state pension liabilities. He also noted income taxes will be cut “at a significant amount” which in turn will put Arizona in a positive competitive position.
Throughout Tuesday’s floor session, most of the 14 Democrats in the Senate proposed numerous amendments for how to spend Arizona’s $2.3 billion surplus. Many of the options involved additional funding for lower income residents but were voted down on a 16 to 14 margin.
And some supporters of the Democrats’ amendments suggested the tax cuts contained in the budget bills were disproportionately beneficial to higher income residents.
Sen. Sonny Borrelli said he took many of the Democrats’ comments “as contempt for the rich.”
Earlier in the day the House Committee on Government & Elections gave due pass recommendations to two bills, including SCR1010 which would promote a three-day States’ Convention in September. All seven Republicans on the committee voted for the Sen. Kelly Townsend sponsored bill but indicated they would likely vote against it on the floor.
However, the bill never made it to the full House due to the lack of quorum. The same problem affected Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita’s attempt via SB1431 to bring changes to the citizen advisory committees utilized by flood control districts.
Ugenti-Rita explained there is currently no restrictions on who sits on those committees, which has allowed city officials to hold seats on what is supposed to be a citizen committee. The bill would also mandate all counties with a population of 1.5 million or more must have a citizens committee; the only county which would be impacted by that provision is Maricopa County, even though Pima, Pinal, and Yuma also utilize citizen committees for their flood districts.
While budget negotiations continued behind closed doors, the State House got back into action Monday by focusing on one of its showcase subjects – election integrity.
On a 31-29 party line vote, representatives passed SB1083 which if signed into law would change the criteria for when an election recount is necessary for some races. Depending on the race, recounts are currently only mandated is the margin of victory for a candidate between 10 and 200 votes, or one-tenth of one percent or less of the combined total votes cast for the top two candidates.
Under SB1083, a recount will be triggered in most races when the margin of victory is one-half of one percent or less. Supporters of the bill have pointed out for months that an automatic recount would have been triggered for the U.S. President race if Arizona had the new margin formula in place in November 2020.
The other bill passed Monday was SB1241 which involves the signature a voter is required to affix on an early ballot affidavit. If signed into law, it would require county election officials to refer certain non-matching signatures to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office or the local county attorney.
More than 80 percent of ballots cast in the 2020 General Election were early ballots which had to be mailed in a special envelope to the county recorder’s or dropped off at an official ballot box. Upon receipt, a county recorder employee verified the voter’s signature on the envelope by comparing it to digital copies of all prior signatures used by that voter.
If the signature did not appear to match the voter’s registration file, then the county recorder’s office would reach out to that voter who is given a choice to “cure” the signature within a specific time period. If the voter chooses not to cure the signature, or if local election officials cannot reach the voter, then the ballot inside that envelope is not counted.
Statewide, less than 2,000 out of the more than 3 million early ballots cast in the 2020 General Election were not counted based on a non-matching signature flag. It is unclear how many of those ballot affidavits were actually signed by someone other than the voter, or how many voters given an opportunity to cure chose not to because of COVID-19 or being out of state.
Rep. John Kavanagh has argued during this legislative session that elections officials and prosecutors need more options in their toolbox for addressing possible fraud. And he has complained that reports of there being little to no fraud connected to early voting is disingenuous without consistent statewide protocols.
“It’s easy to claim there’s no fraud in early ballots if you never look for fraud, even when it may be staring you right in the face,” he said Monday.
One issue facing smaller counties is that many of their county attorney’s offices do not have investigators. As a result, any investigatory work would likely have to be referred to the local county sheriff or even a local police department.
That possibility was the subject of questions raised during Monday’s floor debate about what protections would be in place to ensure the ballot itself is not identifiable to multiple people as possibly belonging to a specific voter. The Arizona Constitution guarantees a voter’s ballot choices are secret.
Because SB1241 was amended in the House, it has been transmitted back to the Senate for final action. It is expected to pass there on a party line vote and then head to Gov. Doug Ducey who has not said much about what election bills he may sign.
One of the latest diversity hires by Arizona State University (ASU) for their Shakespeare program researches and promotes critical race theory. She is one of five others hired recently on the basis of their race and similar perspectives on that race within academia.
Soon-to-be assistant professor Dr. Brandi Adams shared with ASU in an interview that she’s especially excited about her ongoing work in premodern critical race studies, and how that intersects with the history of reading.
The first search return for “premodern critical race studies” is a website on Ayanna Thompson – the same Regents Professor of English and Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies director that hired Adams and four other “diverse” professors.
According to the Folger Shakespeare Library, premodern critical race studies argues that there were times in history that perceptions of race didn’t exist. Instead, other aspects like faith and family were scrutinized.
“Today, premodern critical race studies scholars are offering new insights into the prehistory of modern racialized thinking and racism. They are helping to create anti-racist spaces.”
Adams spoke at the Folger Shakespeare Library on the subject in March.
As for application of Adams’ research in premodern critical race studies, she shared in the ASU interview that the research would be part of a chapter for a collected volume on the relationship between premodern critical race theory and the histories of books and reading.
Additionally, Adams recommended four novels. All of the recommendations were steeped in social justice messaging such as race and climate change. These were: “American Spy” by Lauren Wilkinson, “Broken Earth” by N.K. Jemisin, “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee, and “The Old Drift” by Namwali Serpell.
Last June, Adams published a piece on Medium that relayed a postmodernist approach. She criticized Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-AK) remarks implying that Shakespeare’s works were an integral influence on American principles, linking Cotton’s physical attributes such as his skin color to his perspectives, beliefs, and morality.
Adams took offense to Cotton’s “effortless alignment of Shakespeare with both the casual and systemic racism woven into our national landscape.” She decried the universal conflation of Shakespeare and “whiteness.”
“Cotton remains wholly unoriginal in claiming Shakespeare as fundamental to a white American university education,” wrote Adams. “He is, however, part of a disappointing recent trend of public figures, critics, filmmakers, and even scholars who have continued to adapt, appropriate, or write about Shakespeare’s plays with a problematic central tenet – that there is a specific perspective needed to regard them. More often than not, the lens through which we are asked to consider these plays is that of a white, cisgender, able-bodies, man who often vociferously insists that he embodies the universal interpretive mode for all conversations about Shakespeare.”
Adams will work under the Department of English and the Arizona Center for Medieval Renaissance Studies. Some of her forthcoming works include chapters, articles, or reviews focused on premodern critical race studies, inclusivity, “Blackness,” and race.
Adams didn’t respond to AZ Free News’ request for comment by press time.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The indoctrination needs to stop. And thankfully, many parents are fed up.
For quite some time, activists have been trying to force Critical Race Theory or similar programs into government and especially our schools. This movement combines Marxist theories of class conflict within the lens of race. It teaches that some races have been “minoritized” and are considered oppressed while those who are “racially privileged” are called “exploiters.”
These sorts of programs made their way into our public schools because proponents of Critical Race Theory are good at disguising it. They use terms like “social justice,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “equity” which seem harmless enough. So, you can see how easy it could be for a busy parent with a mountain of responsibilities to overlook such a curriculum.
But parents around the state of Arizona are starting to catch on. And they’re speaking up.
In 2019, Chandler Unified School District adopted a program called “Deep Equity” (note that keyword). Parents spoke out then, and the program was phased out.
Just a few months ago, Litchfield Elementary School District published an “equity statement” along with a set of “equity goals.” These “goals” were presented at a school board meeting by a “district diversity committee” because someone on the school board must have been using their Critical Race Theory dictionary. But parents and other community members voiced their opposition, and the district agreed to revise these “goals.”
And last month, parents in Scottsdale demanded more transparency from the Scottsdale Unified School District after some parents heard indoctrination from teachers while their kids were in school online at home.
It’s great that parents are speaking up. And they should continue to do so. But multiple states around the country have started to ban Critical Race Theory. And parents should demand that Arizona lawmakers do the same.