Indiana News

2 Republicans draft new measure for Hoosiers choosing between ‘jobs and medical freedom’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Two Indiana House Republicans on Monday introduced a measure to allow Gov. Eric Holcomb to end renewals of the public health emergency during the coronavirus pandemic.

Reps. Bob Behning and Mike Speedy, both from Indianapolis, co-authored the new measure, House Bill 1001. In statements, they mentioned Hoosiers “choosing between their jobs and medical freedom” and Indiana residents’ ability to make “medical decisions that are in line with their deeply held religious beliefs and medical needs without fear of losing their livelihoods.”

It’s the first measure to be posted for the 2022 legislative session, which usually translates into a high priority for the House, which has a supermajority of Republicans.

The House Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee will meet at 9 a.m. Dec. 16 in the House chamber to hear testimony on House Bill 1001. The committee will be livestreamed on iga.in.gov.

The measure comes after last week’s stalled attempt by Republicans to fast-track a measure through the legislature for the same purpose. Majority Leader Matt Lehman had presented last week’s proposal as a step toward protecting Hoosiers’ rights by allowing workers to claim medical or religious exemptions if their employers required COVID-19 vaccinations. Lehman’s proposal came upon heated public testimony and a lack of agreement among legislators.

Holcomb on Oct. 29 issued the 20th renewal of the initial public health emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest renewal expires Dec. 1, but the Republican governor has said he will again extend the declaration. He also has continued to extend limited provisions — including licensing of medical professionals, and COVID control measures for public facilities — to address the spread of the coronavirus.

The new measure also comes as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are increasing in the state.

According a digest for the measure, it would:

  • Allow the secretary of Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) to issue a waiver of human services statutory provisions and administrative rules if the secretary determines that the waiver is necessary to claim certain enhanced federal matching funds available to the Medicaid program.
  • Allow the FSSA secretary to issue an emergency declaration for purposes of participating in specified authorized federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) emergency allotments.
  • Require the FSSA secretary to prepare and submit any waivers or emergency declarations to the budget committee.
  • Allow the state health commissioner of the state Department of Health or the commissioner’s designated public health authority to issue standing orders, prescriptions, or protocols to administer or dispense certain immunizations for individuals who are at least 5 years old. Current law limits the age for the commissioner’s issuance of standing orders, prescriptions, and protocols for individuals who are at least 11 years old.
  • Define “Indiana governmental entity” and specify that an Indiana governmental entity may not issue or require an immunization passport. Current law refers to a state or local unit instead of an Indiana governmental entity.
  • Provide that an employer may not impose a requirement that employees receive an immunization against COVID-19 unless the employer provides individual exemptions that allow an employee to opt out of the requirement on the basis of medical reasons or religious reasons.
  • Require an employer to provide employees with an option to submit to testing for the presence of COVID-19 not more than once a week at no cost to the employee in lieu of receiving an immunization against COVID-19.
  • Provide that an employer may not require an employee who has tested positive for and recovered from COVID-19 to receive an immunization against COVID-19 for the six-month period following the employee’s date of recovery.
  • Provide that an employer may not take an adverse employment action against an employee because the employee has requested or used an exemption from an employer’s COVID-19 immunization requirement.

 In 2022, the legislature is scheduled to convene Jan. 11 and adjourn March 14.

Earlier reporting from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Statements

“It should always be up to an individual and their health-care provider to make medical decisions. Overreach by the federal government has backed hardworking Hoosiers into a corner, and now many are choosing between their jobs and medical freedom. I’m ready to address this issue head on with legislation that helps protect Indiana residents and their liberties.”

Indiana state Rep. Bob Behning, an Indianapolis Republican

“Our individual freedoms and liberties don’t end when a pandemic happens. Hoosiers should be able to continue making medical decisions that are in line with their deeply held religious beliefs and medical needs without fear of losing their livelihoods. Information is readily available from many trusted sources to empower each person to make the choice that’s best for them and their family.” 

Indiana state Rep. Mike Speedy, an Indianapolis Republican

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