INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Numerous Indiana medical and business groups argued against a Republican proposal aimed at ending the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency and forcing broad exemptions from workplace vaccination requirements.
The proposed changes to state law faced criticism during a legislative committee hearing Tuesday that it wrongly sends a message that the coronavirus pandemic is over at a time when Indiana’s infections and hospitalizations are rising again.
Republican House Majority Leader Matt Lehman presented the proposal as a step toward protecting individual rights by allowing workers to claim medical or religious exemptions if their employers required COVID-19 vaccinations.
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“INDIANAPOLIS—This week, lawmakers were called in for a surprise session to consider a proposal to end Indiana’s public health emergency. The proposal includes language cracking down on vaccine requirements by private businesses and government related entities like public schools and state-funded universities. Senate Democratic members of the Senate Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee released the following statement:
“‘This proposal is an unprecedented move from Republican state leaders,’ Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said. ‘While I’m glad the proposal includes necessary extensions for programs like SNAP, it also marks an outlandish restriction of private businesses’ and public schools’ abilities to protect their employees and students. The vaccine mandate provisions were opposed by business leaders, health care professionals, and local officials, all of whom expressed deep concern about its potential impact on workplace safety.’
“‘The supermajority’s proposed language comes at a time when COVID numbers across Indiana are rising statewide,’ Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton (D-Gary) said. ‘It disempowers employers and schools in unprecedented ways and represents an undemocratic disruption in the way we legislate—the fact that the supermajority had to suspend Indiana’s constitutional rules to push this language through fully illustrates the issues with this entire process.’
“State Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) continued, ‘The proposal’s rushed timeline is completely inappropriate. Given the longstanding implications this would have, it’s essential that we give it the same amount of consideration we give any other bill. For example, today we heard experts testify that exemptions outlined for pregnant women need a second look, given the exceptional vulnerability of pregnant women and their children to COVID. What additional testimony will we miss with this rushed timeline?
“‘Political posturing like this runs contrary to the best interests of Hoosiers, especially considering that the COVID vaccine has been thoroughly vetted and proven effective and safe. The best way to move Indiana forward and protect Hoosiers is to work to bring our vaccination rates up, not to punish businesses and schools trying to keep their people safe.'”Indiana Senate Democrats