The overwhelming majority of people are done with COVID restrictions. Just look at the reaction when mask mandates were put to an end on airplanes last month. Cheering. Celebration. Throwing masks away. There’s nothing surprising about this—unless of course you’re a member of the liberal media.
With a desire to tackle COVID overreach head on, our own state lawmakers got to work last year. And through a series of Budget Reconciliation Bills, they took important steps to protect Arizonans from more COVID mandates.
But then in November, some of the protections were thrown out in court on procedural grounds. Thankfully, the Arizona legislature didn’t ignore the problem and got back to work this year. Now, they have passed several significant bills that are officially signed into law to protect against future COVID and government overreach.
Vaccines should always be voluntary and never be forced. That’s why Representative Jake Hoffman introduced HB2498. This bill prohibits governments from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for any Arizonan, and it was signed into law by Governor Ducey late last month.
During the early part of the pandemic, many churches and religious services were shut down and considered non-essential. But the U.S. Constitution protects the free exercise of religion, including the right to hold beliefs inwardly as well as the right to act on those beliefs publicly. That’s why House Republican Majority Leader Ben Toma sponsored HB2507.
This critical piece of legislation defines a religious service as an essential service during a declared state of emergency. And it protects the fundamental right of the people of Arizona to exercise their religion freely during a time of crisis. Finally, it also protects religious organizations from discrimination when they seek to operate during a state of emergency. HB2507 was signed into law by Governor Ducey in April.
One of the most heartbreaking parts of the pandemic was watching children be forced to wear masks with no study to back this up. That’s why Representative Joseph Chaplik sponsored HB2616. This bill puts the final say on masks in the hands of parents rather than school officials or other bureaucrats. Just like with the bills above, Governor Ducey signed it into law last month.
Wearing a mask shouldn’t be a prerequisite for having access to the government. That’s why Representative Neal Carter introduced HB2453. This bill prohibits government properties from requiring masks, with the exception of areas with workplace safety and infection control measures that are unrelated to COVID-19. Governor Ducey signed HB2453 into law earlier this month.
As you may recall, at times it felt like that the state of emergency due to COVID would last forever. It was only until this past March that Governor Ducey ended it—over two years after he originally issued it.
That’s why Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita introduced SB1009. This bill ensures that governors only have the authority to issue a state of emergency for public health emergencies for 30 days. After that, the governor is limited to extending that state of emergency for 30 days at a time with a limit of 120 days. From there, the state legislature has to consent to any new state of emergency.
Governor Ducey signed SB1009 into law at the beginning of May.
In addition to signing each of these bills into law, Governor Ducey also took immediate action at the beginning of January to protect students and parents from more school shutdowns. As students headed back to school after their winter break, he made up to $7,000 available for families who may face financial or educational barriers due to unexpected school closures. This was a step in the right direction to make sure that families who met the income requirements had access to funds for childcare, school-coordinated transportation, online tutoring, and school tuition if their school was shutdown.
It’s certainly too bad that it ever came to this. While there’s no doubt that COVID was an issue that warranted some action, it never should have included trampling on the rights of the people—especially children. Thankfully, state lawmakers didn’t waste any time after last November’s court decision. And now, the people of Arizona are protected by law against schools, mayors, governors, and more who want to further restrict our freedoms due to COVID.
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