Since early on in the legislative session, Arizona Rep. Bret Roberts has tried to convince his fellow lawmakers that it was crucial to protect citizens from mandatory COVID-19 vaccination demands.
A bill, HB2190, introduced by Sen. Kelly Townsend on Roberts’ behalf would prohibit companies and government agencies in Arizona from demanding proof, referred to as a vaccine passport, of someone’s vaccination status in order to receive government benefits or enter a place of business.
HB2190 stalled out but fast forward nearly three months to Ducey’s decision this week to issue an executive order banning Arizona’s universities and community colleges from mandating that students show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination status or be forced to wear masks “in order to participate in learning.”
The governor’s action came after Dr. Joanne Vogel, Vice President of Student Services for Arizona State University (ASU), announced that students who have not received the COVID-19 vaccination would be subjected to daily health checks, twice-weekly testing, and mandatory face mask use in all indoor and outdoor spaces on ASU campuses.
Rep. Travis Grantham, the Speaker Pro Tempore, issued a statement Tuesday calling for the immediate rescindment of Dr. Vogel’s COVID-19 policy or her departure from ASU. At stake is not only students’ freedom to be vaccinated or not, but the university’s finding, according to Grantham.
“I have received numerous calls from concerned parents whose kids have no other option but to attend a state university,” Grantham noted. “It’s important that this tyrannical policy must not prevent any Arizonan from accessing our state university system. Moreover, as the legislature prepares to pass a state budget for next year, I will not support funding for any state university that intends to harass or discriminate against non-vaccinated students on campus.”
Rep. Jake Hoffman also opposes the ASU policy which he called “a gross abuse of students’ liberties.” He pointed out Tuesday that the state’s universities receive hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds and that it was common knowledge lawmakers have language in the pending state budget which would prohibit ASU’s COVID-19 policy.
“They’re just basically giving the Legislature the finger and that’s a problem for our State,” Hoffman said in a radio interview. “It’s an unacceptable overreach by a political subdivision of the state.”
In announcing his executive order, Ducey called on the legislation to codify his executive order into law. The question now is whether the legislation Ducey is seeking will be HB2190 or if it will include something else.
For his part, Roberts said during a radio interview Tuesday morning that the governor’s executive order is “a good start” but he believes all Arizonans -not just students- deserve the same protections. Which would be provided by HB2190.
Roberts also said he is not surprised by the ASU vaccination dustup, although he found it interesting the University of Arizona did not try to implement such as policy. He remains hopeful his vaccine bill -or something similar- will pass.
The problem, he noted, “is future political interest” of those who have so far opposed legislating vaccine policies for private and public purposes.
“If the people make it clear that future political interest are in jeopardy then maybe there’s a chance” of passing HB2190, he said. “I put the right of the individual to make that choice (to vaccinate or not) before a business should be able to dictate whether or not you have to give up your personal medical information in order to particulate in commerce.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita provided a shout-out to Roberts for “taking an early lead on this important issue,” and called on lawmakers to prohibit vaccine passports “from ever being mandated by any government or business.”
On Thursday, Sen. T.J. Shope, a Republican, joined all the Senate Democrats to kill HB 2190, a bill intended to protect individual medical privacy rights. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bret Roberts, would have made it a misdemeanor to refuse services to individuals who do not provide proof they are vaccinated for COVID-19.
HB2190, which would have preserved fundamental medical privacy rights, came to be referred to as the “Show Me Your Papers” bill. After the vote, #shopemeyour papers was trending on social media sites.
Sen. David Gowan offered a full-throated defense of the bill:
Shope, according to sources, would settle for nothing less than a codification of an Executive Order issued by Governor Doug Ducey on the subject of vaccine passports. Roberts even allowed Sen. Tyler Pace to amend his bill that weakened individual rights to some extent, but said his bottom line was a prohibition of businesses refusing service to the unvaccinated. Shope refused to afford Arizona that modicum of medical privacy protection.
The ACLU has called the vaccine passports “troublesome,” yet not one Democratic legislator voted to preserve individual medical privacy rights.
Sen. Sonny Borelli voted against the bill at the last minute in order to preserve his right as someone who voted with the majority to bring it back for reconsideration by the Senate. However, in these final days of the Legislative Session, it is unlikely the matter will be brought back.
As a bill to prohibit vaccine passports appears to have stalled in the Arizona Legislature, Congressman Biggs this week introduced his No Vaccine Passports Act to prevent federal agencies from issuing any standardized documentation that could be used to certify a U.S. citizen’s COVID-19 status to a third party, such as a restaurant or an airline.
Biggs’ bill follows a report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging vaccine providers to push people to share their personal health and vaccination data through their smartphones. Healthcare professionals and civil rights activists are now that surveillance system could be used to create a vaccine passport.
“I am profoundly disturbed that the Biden Administration would even consider imposing vaccine passports on the American people. My private healthcare decisions—and yours—are nobody else’s business,” said Biggs. “Vaccine passports will not help our nation recover from COVID-19; instead, they will simply impose more Big Brother surveillance on our society.
Biggs applauded Florida Governor Ron DeSantis “for being an early leader against vaccine passports at the state level. My No Vaccine Passports Act builds on his efforts and will further protect Americans’ privacy rights and fundamental freedoms.”
On Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting vaccine passports. Abbott said a system to track those who have been inoculated against COVID-19 infringes on citizens’ rights.
This is the correct direction to go. Medical records should always remain confidential. No one should ever have to show papers for private medical decisions made between you and your doctor. #VaccinePassport#covidhttps://t.co/qpIAvvpGav
Arizona State Rep. Bret Roberts has proposed the state-level bill to prohibit vaccine passports. The bill has stalled due to the efforts of at least one lawmaker who believes private businesses should be allowed to require them.
There’s only one reason to require COVID vaccine passports: to coerce people into getting the vaccine. While vaccination is not required, a passport requirement would say, “Whether you get the vaccine is up to you, but if you want to travel or shop or do anything outside your home, a passport is required.”
For those who are concerned about getting the virus from unvaccinated people, get vaccinated! Unvaccinated people pose a very small threat to those who have been vaccinated. Sure, the threat’s not zero, but any time you are around other people, you could catch a cold, or the flu, or Ebola, from them. You could get hit by their cars or knocked down if they bumped into you on the sidewalk. The risk to the vaccinated from being around the unvaccinated is small compared to other risks of being in places where other people are present.