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City of Tucson to receive update on vaccine mandate legality

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TUCSON (KVOA) — The COVID-19 pandemic will take center stage at Tucson City Council Tuesday. It is a hot topic of discussion all across the state is city and county policies on employee requirements for vaccines, testing and masks.

In August, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and Tucson City Council approved a policy requiring its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 6-1. The city said the decision came after it conducted a survey suggesting about 1,000 city employees aren't vaccinated against the virus.

The new ordinance requires City of Tucson employees to provide proof that they've received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of August, with the city making exemptions for medical and religious reasons.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the mandate is illegal and directly violates Senate Bill 1824, which prohibits local governments from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations and requiring proof of vaccination status. The bill goes into effect on Sept. 29. On Tuesday, Tucson City Council will get an update on those legal developments.

"That's why the courts are there," said Ward 3 Councilmember Karin Uhlich. "It's a peaceful and appropriate way to resolve these kinds of intense conflicts and get us a path moving forward. We want to make sure that everything we're doing is legal and constitutional."

"That's the appropriate way for us to solve disputes," Uhlich said. "There's a disagreement about this, and so the courts are there for us to peacefully and appropriately resolve that and then move forward with the decision that we believe is best."

In a statement released by city leaders, City Attorney Mike Rankin said as the law in question officially goes into effect Sept. 29, the city is "evaluating the implications of the Attorney General’s opinion that the City’s vaccine requirement violates a statute that does not yet have legal effect.” 

AG Brnovich said in a statement, “Tucson’s vaccine mandate is illegal, and the city could be held liable for attempting to force employees to take it against their beliefs,” Brnovich said. “COVID-19 vaccinations should be a choice, not a government mandate.”

To read, Attorney General Mark Brnovich's full statement, click here.

Currently, if employees don't provide vaccine proof, they could face a five-day suspension without pay.

The City of Tucson is expected to hold a closed-study session at 1:30 p.m. and its regular public meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

News 4 Tucson reached out to AG Brnovich for an interview and were told he was unavailable.

Nicole Costantino

Nicole Costantino is a multimedia journalist for News 4 Tucson. Feel free to send her tips and chocolate chip cookie recipes.

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