PHOENIX – A House committee has passed a Republican-sponsored bill that would allow Arizona business owners to decide whether to enforce mask mandates for employees and customers — a move supporters say promotes freedom and critics call a threat to health and safety.
“It’s a simple bill – it restores the freedom and the liberties back to the individual, and the individuals that own a business, to make their own decisions,” said newly elected Rep. Joseph Chaplik of Scottsdale, a sponsor of House Bill 2770.
The House Commerce Committee on Tuesday voted 6-4 along party lines in favor of the bill, which runs counter to many city and county government requirements to wear a mask to combat the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Gov. Doug Ducey has not issued a statewide mask requirement but last year allowed local governments to establish such rules.
Chaplik, who spoke while wearing a face shield, referred to emails of support he has received.
“Anything can be made into a mask, so it’s not about safety, it’s about compliance,” one read.
“Private businesses should have the freedom to enact their own health protocols,” read another. He said most emails he received support the bill, and he did not read any opposition emails.
Chaplik’s fellow Republicans did not explain their “yes” votes, but Democrats spoke up.
“We are wearing our masks, we are trying to be safe, and I really resent that this bill is being put forth today,” said Rep. Charlene Fernandez of Yuma.
Rep. Robert Meza of Phoenix offered a personal reason.