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Indiana GOP bill stymies workplace COVID-19 vaccine mandates

INDIANAPOLIS (AP/WISH) — Gov. Eric Holcomb is holding back from supporting a Republican proposal that would force businesses to grant COVID-19 vaccination requirement exemptions without questions.

The proposal announced Saturday would also block similar immunization rules by state universities and rejects an appeal by the state’s largest business organization to leave such decisions up to employers.

The proposal includes administrative actions sought last week by Holcomb that he said will allow him to end the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency order that’s been in place since March 2020.

But it also has provisions that would give workers broad exemptions from employer vaccine mandates.

Governor Eric Holcomb said he will follow up with legislative leaders on those additional points and added he wants to hear where they’re coming from. But he said he doesn’t want Hoosiers to get the wrong message.

“I hope it sends the message that if you get vaccinated, the odds of you ending up in the hospital, or worse, go way down and a large number of people in Indiana, across the country and the world have done just that,” said Holcomb. 

Holcomb said he was pleased his three requests were written in the draft bill. Those are the continuation of enhanced federal matching funds for Medicaid expenditures, enhanced benefits for those receiving federal food assistance and extending the ability to vaccinate 5 to 11-year-olds.

The Executive Director for the State Democratic party issued a statement saying, “Indiana and Hoosiers need every tool possible to protect their families and put the pandemic behind us. Eliminating certain tools puts the state in a weaker position to achieve this goal just as another wave is hitting Indiana and putting more lives at risk.”

News 8 also reached out to Indiana University. A spokesperson said the school is “still looking at the bill and working with lawmakers on potential ramifications.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the draft bill, from there they will move to formally introduce and pass a bill on Monday.

The state’s current public health emergency expires on Dec. 1.