Indiana House to vote whether to limit employers’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate rules

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

The U-S Supreme Court says the Biden Administration can’t force employers to make workers get vaccinated. The Indiana House will vote Tuesday on whether to limit employers from requiring it on their own.

The bill requires companies to honor claims of religious objections to the vaccine, or documented medical exemptions. Those workers could still be ordered to get tested every week. And the bill would bar schools or state universities from imposing vaccine requirements at all.

The bill wouldn’t apply to hospitals or other health care facilities. The Supreme Court upheld the federal vaccine order for health care workers, while striking down the administration’s effort to require the vaccine for other businesses under workplace safety rules.

Indiana’s vaccine language is coupled with three technical changes Governor Holcomb requested in November as the final step before lifting a nearly two-year health emergency declaration. Those changes would preserve Indiana’s ability to receive extra Medicaid and food stamp money to help with the pandemic, and make permanent a change in the licensing of out-of-state health care workers.

The House approved two minor changes to the bill on Thursday, while knocking down two amendments from opposite sides of the aisle. Indianapolis Democrat Ed DeLaney proposed stripping the vaccine language and passing Holcomb’s requests, while Milford Republican Curt Nisly called on the House to do the opposite, limiting the vaccine while deleting the governor’s language.

DeLaney noted Democrats are in what he calls the “ironic” position of siding with Indiana business groups, who have opposed the bill as meddling in their ability to do what’s best for their businesses. He points out Senate bills have separated the two issues, and says the House should follow suit.

On a near-party line vote, the House shot down DeLaney’s amendment 59-27. It rejected Nisly’s amendment on an even more lopsided 83-5 vote.

Holcomb has said he has “concerns” about the vaccine language, but hasn’t said whether he’d veto the bill. He says he’s had ongoing discussions with House and Senate leaders.

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