State Representative Joseph Chaplik’s (R-Scottsdale) bill to leave a child’s masking up to parents passed in the House last Thursday in a party-line vote, 31-28. HB2616 requires that public and charter school districts — as well as the state, its political subdivisions, and any other governmental entity — may not require minors to wear masks or face coverings without the express consent of their parent or legal guardian.
During the House floor’s vote on the bill, Democrats expressed opposition to HB2616 by claiming their Republican colleagues were on the side of increasing the scope and size of government, suggesting that Democrats stood for limited government by comparison. Senate Democrats offered similar arguments during the floor vote on a bill to limit abortions after 15 weeks. State Representative Marcelino Quiñonez (D-Phoenix) made such an argument as he voted against HB2616. Quiñonez didn’t elaborate how a bill affording individuals the choice for their children to wear medical gear increased the scope and size of government authority.
“There seems to be a hesitancy to accept the science and go with the science. Instead of doing that, we continue to create barriers to ensure that people feel othered by wearing a mask, instead of following the science,” said Quiñonez. “The legislation to create another barrier, another bureaucracy, is overdue. And so with that, I encourage my colleagues to follow the science and vote ‘no.’”
In a press release following the bill’s passage, Chaplik explained that parents were given back their right to make medical decisions for their children. He expressed confidence that the senate will pass the bill.
“This is a bill to return the right to make medical decisions for their children to the parents, which I expect to become the law in Arizona,” said Chaplik. “This is a win for parents, students, and schools who have been forced by their district leadership to mandate masks.”
As AZ Free News reported earlier this month, Democrats in the House Government and Elections Committee issued the same arguments against the bill. State Representative Sarah Ligouri (D-Phoenix) insisted that the bill contradicted “the science” and pandered to a “political narrative,” arguing that districts with mask mandates already have opt-out options for parents. However, Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) would be one district that doesn’t mention an opt-out to its mask mandate.
State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) responded that mask mandates weren’t based on scientific knowledge, pointing out the CDC’s frequently-changing guidelines and goalposts over the last two years. Hoffman implied that Liguori and other Democrats opposed to the bill were cherry-picking data from their preferred sources to support the notion that “the science” supported mask mandates.
“In reality, the science is on the side that kids should not be forced to wear masks,” said Hoffman. “This is not a political argument, it’s an actual medical science argument. There’s countless medical studies to support this, and there are countless health professionals at the highest levels — especially medical doctors, not just public health professionals because there’s a very big difference between an actual medical doctor and a public health professional — they support this.”
Last year, Chaplik sponsored the “Freedom Bill” signed by Governor Doug Ducey: another bill expanding personal freedoms when it comes to masking. The Freedom Bill allowed businesses to not enforce a state, city, town, county, or any other government jurisdiction’s mask mandate on their premises.
PHOENIX, AZ – A bill that provides tax relief to small business owners, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Chaplik, which passed with bipartisan support, was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday. The bill revises state tax structure for taxpayers and protects small business from over taxation by the federal government.
“As promised, I’m glad to help give small businesses the ability to keep more of their hard earned dollars in their pockets by deducting their state income taxes on their federal returns,” Rep. Chaplik told AZ Free News. “This offers them much needed tax relief after a difficult couple of years.”
HB 2838 will not impact the state general fund, but according to Chaplik, will “provide Arizona’s small businesses with more working capital and tax relief without having a negative fiscal impact to the state.”
Since 2017, 15 states, both red and blue alike, have adopted SALT-parity legislation, including Connecticut, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Maryland. Under HB2838, Arizona would join those other states, providing small businesses significant potential tax savings.
The federal government is also on board. In November 2020, the Internal Revenue Service issued guidance (Notice 2020-75) that pass-through entity businesses may claim deductions above the $10,000 State and Local Tax (SALT) cap.
HB 2838 is revenue neutral, as the deduction reduces federal taxes owed. It has no negative fiscal impact on the General Fund revenues, and Arizona cities and towns.
In its longest workday of the session, some legislators debated various budget bills late into the evening after 11 bills cleared the Appropriation Committee in each chamber earlier in the day.
At stake is how to divvy up Arizona’s forecasted budget surplus of $1.5 to $2 billion while transitioning the state to a flat rate income tax and fine-tuning a $12.8 billion budget spending plan released Monday without tweaking it too much.
Many House Representatives believe the budget will be voted on no later than Friday afternoon, allowing lawmakers to leave for the long Memorial Day weekend. But as of Tuesday night, the 16 Republican Senators appeared nowhere near being on the same page, which is critical as all their votes are needed to pass the budget unless a few Democrats can be enticed to cross the aisle.
Masks in public schools turned out to be a divisive issue for many legislators after it was revealed that wording in the Education budget bill would allow schools to have the final say on wearing of masks. That led to a pushback from Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita as well as a sharply worded rebuke from Rep. Joseph Chaplik on Twitter.
“This is completely unacceptable and will not get my vote. In fact, I will not agree to any budget that doesn’t strip the power for mask mandates from school districts. Enough is enough,” Chaplik tweeted.
After much debate it appears as of press time that the mask language will be dropped.
Another highly debated issue involved what role the legislature should have in regulating vaccine passports, which some lawmakers refer to as “show me your medical records.” There has been a split among legislators on where, when, and why the vaccine passports could be allowed.
Currently Gov. Doug Ducey has an executive order in place which prohibits proof of COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition to enter state and local government buildings or to receive public benefits. His order also bans private businesses which conduct services on behalf of state and local governments from implementing a vaccine passport policy.
However, the question of whether universities, retail businesses, transportation companies, and large social venues can set some threshold of vaccination documentation remains unsettled. As is whether the legislature should weigh in on private employers demanding employees to be vaccinated to keep their jobs.
Other debated spending in the budget bill includes unemployment tax payments, low-income housing credits, and an increase in impounded vehicle fees, all of which would impact lower- and middle-income Arizonans the most.
Meanwhile, other legislators are concerned about the state’s long-term fiscal health and want to see Arizona’s debt addressed with some of the existing budget surplus, along with increasing the Rainy Day Fund and upping funding for the state’s universities. And rural lawmakers continue to push for increases in legislative per diems, which have not been adjusted in years.
One large ticket item already in the bill is $50 million toward the cost of widening a dangerous section of Interstate 10 between Casa Grande and Chandler. That funding was necessary to ensure an “aye” vote from Sen. TJ Shope.
Rep. Jake Hoffman said Tuesday he supports the budget’s flat tax proposal, but was still a no vote until much “unnecessary” spending was dumped. And while the idea of a flat tax is popular with Republicans, there still is not much consensus on the details.
There were also talk of Sen. Kelly Townsend seeing her long-sought election bills accounted for in some manner within the budget, in order to guarantee her vote. Instead, a multi-item amendment has been introduced to Townsend’s SB1241, meaning the bill will be address separate of the budget.
Republicans have only a two-vote majority in each chamber, giving each of the caucus’s 16 Senators and 31 Representatives an above average amount of leverage in budget negotiations. It is unclear whether sufficient Democrat-friendly priorities have been included in the budget bills to attract a few votes from the blue side in the event Republicans like Hoffman and Chaplik don’t come onboard.