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Ducey signs lineup of COVID-19 & election reform bills

The signing comes after Arizona has seen an uptick in positive case rates

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a slate of controversial bills Friday that address hot-button conservative issues like COVID-19 care and election reform.

The first COVID bill, House Bill 2086, prohibits schools from requiring students in Arizona to get immunizations against COVID-19 and the human papillomavirus.

A GOP-dominated legislature pushed it through despite steadfast resistance from Democrats.

“I think it’s foolhardy,” state Senator Christine Marsh said, a Democrat from Paradise Valley, in a Senate floor session Tuesday. “The American Academy of Pediatrics is opposed to this, as is the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians. And I, you know, I think that the decisions that are on required vaccinations for school attendance should be left to those medical professionals, and not to the legislature.”

The bill mandates directors and the superintendent of schools to create a method to document proof of immunity and a list of immunizations required for attendance. Establishing proof opens a door for parents to prove natural immunity.

According to the bill, parents can “[use] health agencies and health care providers that may sign a laboratory evidence of immunity.”

The bill’s signing comes after Embry Health in Arizona reported increasing COVID-19 positivity rates, up from 10% last month to 30%. It also comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended children ages 5 to 11 get a third dose of the Pfizer vaccination, amid fears of a summer surge.

According to the CDC, more than 4.8 million children ages 5 through 11 have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 15,000 have been hospitalized and, over 180 have died.

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The second COVID-19 bill, House Bill 2453, prohibits a government entity from “[imposing] any requirement to wear a mask or face covering anywhere on the governmental entity’s premises.”

Emergency masking requirements would have to be re-implemented by an emergency decree from Gov. Ducey. Otherwise, under penalty of law, state entities may not mandate masking.

Ducey also signed Senate Bill 1108, an election reform bill, sponsored by state Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, a Republican from Scottsdale.

On Tuesday, the state House approved the election reform bill with overwhelming support.

Under SB 1008, an automatic recount would occur at the county level if an election count was within 0.5% between the two candidates. House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding of Phoenix supported that bill, leading to a wave of Democratic support.

“One way that you get around ridiculous audits like we’ve seen here in Arizona is to make sure that you have policies in place that are reasonable, a recount of five-tenths of a percent,” Bolding said, in a House floor session. “If a race is decided by that [margin], an automatic recount is not something that would be over burdensome. I do support this bill. And with that, I vote yes.”

The bill passed Tuesday 50-1, with only Pamela Powers Hannley, a Democrat from Tucson, dissenting.

The move from .1% to .5% was lauded by Gov. Ducey’s office in a statement Friday.

“As Arizona’s population grows, it is necessary and prudent to continue prioritizing accountability,” Ducey said. “This election result confirmation process puts Arizona more in-line with other states’ procedures.”

Governor Ducey also signed Senate Bill 1329, an additional election reform bill.

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The bill mandates a county recorder to provide a real-time tabulation of ballots on Election Day by counting the number of early ballots returned at voting locations. The county recorder would also post these totals with the latest unofficial election count on its website.

SB 1329 purportedly addresses right-wing claims that late, unconfirmed ballots added to the vote total toward the end of the Arizona election and swayed the election to Biden and away from former President Donald Trump.

State Representative Teresa Martinez, a Republican from Maricopa who worked as a staff member for pro-Trump Republican Representative Paul Gosar, was brief in her comments Tuesday in a House floor session.

“Two thousand mules,” Martinez said, referencing a pro-Trump movie from conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza in explaining her vote. “And with that, I vote no.”

The film claims without evidence that mules, or people dropping off multiple ballots, contributed to mass election fraud.

State Representative John Fillmore, a Republican from Apache Junction, was more direct in why he opposed the bill condemning the bill’s sponsor state Senator Paul Boyer, a Republican from Glendale, in the process.

“The same sponsor of this bill is the one that killed 13 of those 14,” Fillmore said, about Boyer voting no to previous election bills. “And this bill, when you look at it, is an insult to the intellect of the people of the state of Arizona.”

Fillmore’s election bill, House Bill 2289, is tabled indefinitely in the Senate because Senate President Karen Fann said the bill does not have enough votes. HB 2289, labeled as the “one day, one vote” bill has seen viral support from zealous right-wing groups and personalities on Twitter.

Fann faces viral pressure from these groups, amid approval-uncertainty from the GOP-controlled Senate.

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Governor Doug Ducey speaking with attendees at the 2022 Southern Arizona State of the State Address at the El Conquistador Tucson.