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Indiana House bill to ban vaccine mandates gets fast-tracked

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Top leaders in the Indiana House of Representatives said Tuesday a vaccine mandate ban could reach a floor vote as early as next week.

In the months leading up to the 2022 legislative session that began Tuesday afternoon, House Republicans have taken testimony on a proposal to prohibit employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccines unless they also offer employees the option of weekly testing. The testing would have to be at the employer’s expense.

Speaking to reporters after the House adjourned Tuesday, Speaker Todd Huston said House Bill 1001 is scheduled for a committee vote Thursday morning. If it passes committee, the Republican from Fishers said a final vote in the House could come early next week.

Business leaders have criticized the bill for interfering with employers’ ability to adjust health and safety measures to fit their needs.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, also a Republican, on Tuesday repeated he’s skeptical of the bill.

“I remain unpersuaded. I just think that businesses have a better sense for how they can conduct their business in a safe way,” he said.

The proposed vaccine mandate would be sent to the Senate for consideration if it’s approved by the House. Any law to create the ban would require the governor’s signature, although both chambers could vote to overturn a veto from Holcomb.

Holcomb said he supports a legislative procedure in House Bill 1001 to wind down Indiana’s state of emergency during the coronavirus pandemic. Holcomb and Huston say no discussions on moving that language to a separate bill have happened.

House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta said if the bill supporters’ intent is to protect the jobs of those who do not wish to receive a vaccine, the legislation could end up doing the opposite. The Democrat from Fort Wayne pointed out some businesses have had to shut down this week due to positive COVID tests among their workers. He said the bill could undercut efforts to get people vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“Are we sending a message that vaccines aren’t necessary? I mean, is that what we’re doing?” he said. “Are we sending a message that vaccines aren’t necessary, that they don’t work?”

The measure’s supporters contend the decision whether or not to receive a vaccine is a medical one, and should be solely up to an employee, not their employer. Huston said it’s important to pass the bill fast to give employees that protection.

The Fishers Republican said, “I think there’s a lot of concerns from a lot of our members about dealing with both ending the health emergency, and doing those things that end that, and then giving protections to individuals regarding vaccination.”