The reaction to COVID-19 may be mostly a thing of the past, but Arizona lawmakers are not finished with their efforts to protect their constituents’ constitutional liberties for the future.
Sen. Janae Shamp introduced S.B. 1250, dealing with vaccine requirements and religious exemptions to those mandated medical shots. According to the fact sheet for the legislation (provided by the Arizona Senate Research staff), this bill would accomplish three things:
“Requires employers to allow employees that complete a religious exemption form to opt out of vaccination requirements for COVID-19, influenza A, influenza B, flu or any vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use.”
“Prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee regarding employment, wages or benefits based on vaccination status and from inquiring into the veracity of an employee’s religious beliefs.”
“Allows a terminated employee of a health care institution that did not offer or denied a vaccination religious exemption to file a complaint with the Attorney General.”
“It’s sickening that many healthcare workers, like myself, lost our jobs because we refused to take the jab. The COVID-19 vaccine has not been on the market long enough to determine if there is a correlation between its ingredients and medical issues a number of patients are now experiencing after getting the shot,” stated Sen. Shamp in a release announcing her bill’s progress. “We already have a dire shortage of medical professionals within Arizona, and these mandates have only exacerbated the crisis.”
This piece of legislation should come as a surprise to no one, as Shamp ran on the platform of “medical freedom” during her 2022 campaign for the southwest valley seat. In her response to the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission voter guide, Shamp wrote that she had “been in politics for many years, but the lockdowns, mandates, and shutting down of scientific debate during the Covid pandemic got me very involved in the fight for medical freedom and our rights.”
This legislation closely tracks an opinion request from former Sen. Kelly Townsend to former Attorney General Mark Brnovich, which was answered on August 20, 2021. Townsend asked three questions, including whether an employer could require a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. Brnovich, who had several lawsuits over federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates (including the first one that was filed in Brnovich v. Biden), found that “under federal and state law, employers who mandate vaccinations must provide reasonable accommodations to employees who cannot obtain the COVID-19 vaccine due to a disability or a sincerely-held religious belief.”
Brnovich’s opinion also outlined that “a sincerely-held religious belief about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine includes a moral or ethical belief against receiving a COVID-19 vaccine that has the strength of a traditional religious view.” On the 2022 campaign trail, current Attorney General Kris Mayes was asked about forced vaccine mandates by private businesses and responded, “Of course they can. It is a private business.”
Sen. Shamp’s bill has three co-sponsors: fellow Sen. Steve Kaiser, and Reps. Austin Smith and Steve Montenegro. S.B. 1250 is one of nineteen bills scheduled to be considered in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday, February 7. Sen. T.J. Shope is the chairman of the committee, and Senator Shamp is the vice-chairman. You can watch the meeting live here, or attend in person in Senate Hearing Room 1 at 2:00 PM.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
The House Government and Elections Committee passed a bill requiring public entities to divest from companies boycotting Israel. The bill passed 8-5: those who voted against the bill were State Representatives Kelli Butler (D-Phoenix), Sarah Liguori (D-Phoenix), Lorenzo Sierra (D-Avondale), Christian Solorio (D-Phoenix), and Jennifer Jermaine (D-Chandler).
SB1250 requires all public entities, which includes universities, to take action within three months of the state treasurer releasing its list of companies that boycott Israel. Last September, Treasurer Kimberly Yee declared that Arizona would divest from ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s due to its violation of the state’s law barring Israel boycotts. The bill requires public entities to publish a list of investments sold, redeemed, divested, or withdrawn on its website annually. Public entities would be indemnified and held harmless for these divestments.
A spokesman from the treasurer’s office explained that SB1250 would hold other public entities to the same standard as their policy. He said that one company has announced divestment measures: Unilever.
State Representative Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson) said that she’s fought against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for its “hateful” rhetoric, false accusations, and general attacks toward Jewish peoples. Hernandez noted that on February 10 the leader of the Arab party in Israel, Mansour Abbas, refused to characterize Israel as an apartheid state.
“No one here is trying to stop a student from boycotting or anyone’s First Amendment right to speech,” said Hernandez. “A vote against this is really showing that we are standing with BDS and I don’t think we should be doing that as a state.”
Liguori stated that the Israel-Palestine conflict is complex and took issue with the bill because supporters were conflating their personal and political ideologies with economic prowess. Liguori said that Ben & Jerry’s marked a slippery slope of picking with countries to divest from, and argued that legislators were singling out one company for political reasons.
Prior to his vote for the bill, State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) argued that the testimonies from the Arizona State University (ASU) students furthered his resolve to not provide additional funding for the universities due to the students’ misunderstanding of basic constitutional concepts and foreign affairs.
The Senate passed the bill last month with mixed support from Democrats and complete support from Republicans.
The Arizona Senate passed a bill requiring public entities — the meaning of which was expanded to include state universities and community college districts — to divest from companies boycotting Israel.
Specifically, SB1250 would require public entities to take action within three months of the state treasurer releasing its restricted company list, a record of companies that boycott Israel. As AZ Free News reported last September, Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced that the state wouldn’t invest funds in the ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s for its Israel boycott, which violated state law. Furthermore, under SB1250 all public entities would also be required to publish a list of investments sold, redeemed, divested, or withdrawn on its website annually. Those public entities would be indemnified and held harmless for divesting from the companies.
About half of the Senate Democrats voted against the bill: Assistant Minority Leader Lupe Contreras (D-Avondale), Minority Whip Martin Quezada (D-Glendale) and State Senators Sally Ann Gonzales (D-Tucson), Theresa Hatathlie (D-Coal Mine Canyon), Lisa Otondo (D-Yuma), and Raquel Teran (D-Phoenix).
The remainder of the Senate Democrats expressed support or opted not to vote at all. Minority Leader Rebecca Rios (D-Phoenix), Minority Whip Victoria Steele (D-Tucson), and State Senators Lela Alston (D-Phoenix), Sean Bowie (D-Chandler), Rosanna Gabaldon (D-Sahuarita), and Christine Marsh (D-Phoenix) voted for the bill; State Senators Juan Mendez (D-Tempe) and Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson) didn’t vote.
During the Senate Finance Committee hearing last week, State Representative David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista) criticized the constituents, several of whom were college students, that claimed the state of Israel has engaged in an “apartheid regime” against the Palestinians.
“I know what real history is, and you want to talk about apartheid let’s talk about Hitler and the Jews and the Nazis back in Germany,” said Gowan. “This movement is just another attack on the Jewish society. I mean you see it throughout history itself. It’s a horrible situation that we have to reteach, reteach, reteach because we forget about our past. But remember when you forget the past, you’re gonna repeat it. We want to stop this now so we don’t repeat our past.”