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Governor signs less restrictive COVID-19 vaccine employer mandate bill

The Indiana House debates final passage of a bill governing employer mandates of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Brandon Smith
/
IPB News
The Indiana House debates final passage of a bill governing employer mandates of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The debate in the General Assembly over how and whether to restrict businesses from enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates is over.

House Republicans sent a far less restrictive version of their bill to the governor Thursday, who then signed it into law.

The original House version of HB 1001 would’ve forced businesses to grant religious exemptions to getting the vaccine, no matter what. But the measure headed to the governor merely requires businesses to follow current federal law when it comes to considering such exemptions.

Rep. Matt Lehman (R-Berne) is the bill’s author.

“Is it everything that the author of 1001 would like to have? No," Lehman said. "But I think this is a good step forward.”

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues. Trying to follow along with our coverage of the legislative session? We've compiled all the stories our reporters have published by bill number and topic here.

Under the bill, if an employee presents a note from a health care provider saying they should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine, an employer has to grant that exemption.

And the measure does include a new employee exemption to getting the vaccine: if you show proof that you had COVID-19 within three months.

House Democrats all voted against the original bill in January. But after the Senate’s changes, all but one of them voted for it.

“The Senate seemed to strike a better balance between keeping employees safe and respecting religious and medical exemptions,” said House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne).

The bill also allows Gov. Eric Holcomb to end the state’s public health emergency without losing access to millions in federal funding and preventing the state from easily offering vaccine clinics to children under age 11.

The language does include an April 16 cutoff to enhanced federal SNAP, or food stamp benefits – even if the federal government continues to offer them past that date.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.