By Corinne Murdock |
The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) passed a motion to prohibit utility companies from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for their employees, 3-2. Commissioners Lea Márquez Peterson, Justin Olson, and Jim O’Connor voted for a policy prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates; Commissioners Sandra Kennedy and Anna Tovar voted against it. If utility companies do impose a mandate down the road, they will be subject to fines.
O’Connor insisted that it wasn’t good for employment or individual choice to allow utilities to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine. He reminded the commissioners that all of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates have been halted by federal courts.
“I think this is our good way of taking care of Arizona’s citizens, workers, and voters,” said O’Connor. “If you force-vaccinate everybody and either having a lot of people leave or fire a lot of people — how do you keep the lights on? How do you keep the water flowing? How do you keep running the business? […] And then, how are you going to treat these employees on their way out the door, after their ten, twenty, thirty years of insurance?”
Olson added to O’Connor’s remarks with a more pointed criticism of Biden’s mandate.
“The unconstitutional overreach of the Biden Administration needs to be challenged,” said Olson. “It is absolutely inappropriate for the government to require anyone to be vaccinated against their will. Anybody has the right to receive the vaccination, but we as the government do not have the right to be requiring folks to make a choice between receiving a vaccine against their will or losing their employment.”
None of the utility companies present at the meeting reported having a vaccine mandate. The companies all noted that they would comply with federal law and regulations.
Kennedy criticized the commission, saying that mandatory vaccinations aren’t new concepts and that those opposed to vaccine mandates are making the pandemic a partisan issue. She added that the vaccine didn’t fall under the question of freedoms.
“It is not responsible for a commission without a single expert in health care or medicine to weigh in on this issue,” said Kennedy. “It is also not responsible for commissioners to make statements spreading unfounded rumors which confuse and endanger the public. I would ask commissioners, before you take a stance possibly geared towards political ambition, to consider the Arizonans filling our hospitals and in ICU beds right now. Many hooked onto ventilators, dying alone.”
Olson responded by reiterating the ACC’s constitutional responsibility to protect employees’ freedom to choose.
Tovar said she felt it was premature to vote on something barring vaccine mandates when there aren’t any in place currently.
The policy to bar vaccine mandates was introduced by Olson and O’Connor last month.