Debate over bill banning COVID restrictions underway at statehouse

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("Indiana State Capitol Building" by Drew Tarvin, CC BY 2.0)

A bill to place restrictions on what business owners can do when it comes to requiring COVID shots for their workers has advanced out of a House committee and will now be considered by the full Indiana House.

The bill moved forward with some amendments added to it.

It would still require business owners who mandate that workers get vaccinated to also offer weekly COVID testing as an alternative to getting a shot if that worker has a legitimate exemption. Employers would also have to pay for those tests.

However, an amendment added to the bill in that regard would allow business owners to apply for the state to reimburse them for the cost of those COVID tests. It would also allow workers denied an exemption to file for unemployment benefits at the expense of the employer who has suspended/fired them.

“This bill is very clear and that is, we need to protect Hoosier employees,” said State Rep, Matt Lehman, the author of the bill. “It’s that fine line of not interjecting ourselves into the employer’s business but at the same time, there’s a line that they don’t cross into the employee’s rights.”

Democrats still disagree with the approach the bill is taking.

“What we need to do in the state of Indiana is allow employers to keep their workplaces safe, and they are in the best position to do that,” said State Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville). “This bill basically goes in and hamstrings those employers.”

Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston is happy the bill has moved forward in the House. He says the bill is in line with today’s science on the virus, which he says keeps changing.

“There was a belief that if we all got vaccinated we could stop this spread (of COVID),” Huston said. “We aren’t stopping the spread. Vaccination protects me. It protects me. It’s doesn’t me that I can’t give it to you.”

The bill will now be considered in the full Indiana House where it is expected to pass. It could have a tougher hill to climb in the State Senate. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) said early this week that he remains “unconvinced” that the bill is the right way to go.

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