INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana House Republicans are moving forward with a measure to limit COVID-19 vaccine mandates by private employers, amending the bill to remove unemployment-related penalties for businesses.
Amendments to House Bill 1001 were voted on as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to end OSHA’s COVID-19 vaccine or testing mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees, giving Indiana’s bill a larger impact if it becomes law.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for health care workers Thursday.
House Bill 1001 would allow employees at private businesses to opt-out of their employers’ vaccine mandates as long as they submit to weekly testing.
“I’m obviously pro-vaccination, encourage people to get vaccinated,” said House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers). “But it’s an individual responsibility.”
One amendment approved Thursday would ban contracts or agreements with employees from including COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
Another amendment removes a requirement that businesses pay penalties to cover the cost of unemployment benefits for employees whose exemptions are denied.
As the bill stands now, those workers could still apply for those benefits.
“The only people that actually get penalized are the people that are good employers, that very seldom lay people off, that very seldom fire people,” said State Rep. Dan Leonard (R-Huntington), who explained why he advocated for the change.
But House Republicans didn’t address other concerns that have been raised by the business community.
They voted down an amendment to remove all parts of the bill that would limit vaccine mandates and focus the bill on the governor’s requirements to end the public health emergency.
“It’s a balance,” Huston said. “We get to hear from a whole lot of people. And we continue to have these types of conversations on this.”
“If we A) want to get out of the pandemic, folks need to be vaccinated,” said House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne). “B) Businesses that want to stay in business have to be able to rely on their employees. The best way to do that is for them to be vaccinated.”
Huston said he’s still working to assess how the U.S. Supreme Court rulings issued Thursday will impact the bill going forward.
Huston expects the full House to vote on the bill Tuesday.