Bill Would Ban Vaccinations “Passport” Requirement For Access To Businesses And Benefits

State senators will be asked this week to amend House Bill 2190 in hopes of protecting most Arizonans from being required to receive any type of vaccination in order to obtain government aid, enter a business or event venue, or use public transportation, Arizona Daily Independent has learned.

A “strike everything” amendment is set to be introduced by Sen. Kelly Townsend to HB2190, a bill first introduced in January by Rep. Bret Roberts, who sought to ensure counties provide the legislature with detailed criminal justice data. Roberts’ bill passed the House last month on a 59 to 0 vote and already had its first two readings in the Senate.

However, Townsend’s amendment slated to be considered during Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee would strike -or delete- the criminal justice language and replace it with legislation related to prohibiting vaccination requirements, or what has been coined as vaccination passports.

The amendment prohibits any business in Arizona from refusing to provide services to someone based on a person’s vaccination status. It would also forbid consideration of someone’s vaccination status to receive a government benefit, service, or permit.

And it would ban local, county, or state public entities from providing any form of incentive -financial or other- to someone who becomes vaccinated. The type of vaccination is not defined.

Roberts (R-LD11) said Sunday he supports the last minute amendment, which also had to be blessed by Senate President Warren Petersen and Sen. David Gowan (R-LD14) who chairs the Appropriations Committee.

“I believe the decision to receive a vaccination or not is a choice people should make for themselves,” Roberts said, adding he expects some pushback from private businesses.  “I hate to be part of forcing a business owner to do something, but it is extremely important that all Arizonans have the right of access to services.”

Noting he “is not an anti-vaxxer,” Roberts said he does not believe it is right “to demand someone prove they’ve had something injected into their body in order to go into a grocery store, a bank, or use a bus. This is a line I don’t want to see us cross in Arizona.”

Although the amended bill would prohibit any government entity or official from requiring a person to be vaccinated, there would be at least two exemptions based on the expected language of the amendment.

One exemption is for employees of hospitals and other health care institutions who could be required to be vaccinated. The other would allow public primary and secondary schools to require students and faculty to receive a vaccine, although an opt-out feature would be allowed for religious beliefs.

The current language of the amendment, however, does not contain a waiver for faculty or students who have a medical basis for not receiving a particular vaccination.

A person who violates the statute could be guilty of a felony punishable by jail or prison time, while a business which violates the law could be penalized in the form of action against its government issued license or permit.

If the amendment passes Gowan’s committee this week, then the “new” HB2190 would receive a floor vote in the Senate as soon as Thursday. But because the bill’s language differs from what the full House passed in February, the amended HB2190 would have to pass out of the House once again before being sent to Gov. Doug Ducey.

UPDATE: Rep. Roberts told Arizona Daily Independent on Monday morning that although the Townsend amendment itself does not contain language providing a medical waiver for vaccinations, such a waiver is already included in current state law.