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Arizona Republicans seek sovereignty over federal COVID mandates
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Arizona Republicans seek sovereignty over federal COVID mandates

  • An American flag outside the Arizona capitol building in Phoenix.
    PixabayAn American flag outside the Arizona capitol building in Phoenix.

A divided Arizona House committee voted Wednesday to advance a COVID-19 bill that would limit a government entity’s ability to mandate masks in government buildings.

The Republican-majority House Ethics Committee voted 7-6 Wednesday along party lines to pass House Bill 2453, which would see masks banned from government properties except for “long-standing workplace safety and infection control measures” unconnected to COVID-19. 

Republicans argued in favor of personal liberties and dismissed the importance of masks in favor of choice.

“It saddens me to see the whole country shut down and obediently obey a government that had overreach, extending not only on mask, but also on where we could go, what we had to do, when we had to be home and things of that nature,” said Representative John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, to Representative Neal Carter, R-Queen Creek. “I was appalled that the churches did not rise in opposition. It said that people could not go and pray to the gods of their choice and live out their lives like they did during the Revolutionary War, which sparked freedom in America.”

Democrats argued that public safety should be a priority and that the country is still very much in the middle of a pandemic. Arizona reported 8,329 new COVID cases and 24 deaths Wednesday, a decrease from a pandemic high of 27,681 new cases on Jan. 22.

“I went 12 championship rounds with COVID,” said Representative Lorenzo Sierra, D-Avondale. “COVID took me about as far as a human could go. Being double vaxxed, being boosted, the chances of me getting COVID again, hopefully, are low. I'm not wearing this for me. I'm wearing this for you. I vote no.”

Carter defended personal choice and referenced recent studies that indicate cloth masks are less effective than N-95 masks.

“Clearly, there are different points of view on mask policies,” Carter said to the committee. “For example, there is an abundance of literature that suggests that masks are ineffective, besides if masks are effective, and somebody wears one, why do I have to wear one? They're protected by wearing one themselves.”

House Republicans are slated to push for state sovereignty concerning COVID-19 laws and mandates in the upcoming weeks.

On Tuesday, a House committee passed House Bill 2198, which would require employers who’ve terminated employees over vaccine mandates to pay that employee a year’s salary or rehire them.

If passed, the bill would contradict a previous federal OSHA mandate which required businesses with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccination. On Jan. 25, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled OSHA exceeded its authority, tossing the mandate. 

The House Ethics Committee also tabled House Bill 2498 on Wednesday. The bill would make it illegal for any government entity to require vaccination for any resident of the state. 

In September, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sued the Biden administration over the federal government's mandate to require the COVID vaccine for federal workers, calling them unconstitutional

Brnovich saw a small victory in his lawsuit last week when U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi granted an injunction against Biden’s executive order, protecting some Arizona companies and state workers who do business with the federal government.

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