INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana House Republicans pushed through a proposal Tuesday that would limit workplace COVID-19 vaccination requirements even as the move faces resistance from Gov. Eric Holcomb and GOP state Senate leaders.
The Republican-dominated Indiana House voted 57-35 largely along party lines in favor of House Bill 1001, sending it to the Senate for consideration.
Supporters maintain the bill would protect individual rights by forcing employers to grant exemptions to workers who claim medical or religious objections and limit them to requiring COVID-19 tests no more than once a week. Major business organizations argued against the proposed vaccination exemptions, which employers would have to accept from workers “without further inquiry.”
Republican House Majority Leader Matt Lehman of Berne said he encouraged people to get the vaccine shots, but workers shouldn’t lose their jobs over not being willing to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
The vote comes after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to block the Biden administration’s attempt to require COVID-19 vaccinations or testing for workers at big companies. The court, however, let stand a federal vaccination requirement for most health-care workers.
“It will have broad implications for the state and will affect the sweeping majority of Indiana employers” if House Bill 1001 becomes law, said Grayson Harbour, associate attorney for Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP.
Since the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers was upheld, employees at facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid would still have to follow the federal mandate, Harbour said.
“The Indiana law would likely be pre-empted by federal law in that case,” Harbour explained.
Holcomb and top Senate leaders have opposed the bill as wrongly interfering in the decisions of private businesses.
Many members of the medical and business communities also remain opposed to the bill.
“This is not the time to make it more difficult for employers to determine their vaccination policy,” said Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
The Indiana Senate is considering its own bill to meet the governor’s requirements to end the state’s public health emergency without placing limits on COVID-19 vaccine mandates.