Indiana House passes bill to limit employer vaccine mandates

The Indiana House passed House Bill 1001 that would limit employer vaccine mandates (IBJ photo/Emily Ketterer)

The Indiana House has passed a controversial bill that would restrict employers who mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, sending it to the Senate for consideration.

The bill passed 57-35, largely along party lines. Republican Reps. Ed Clere, Cindy Ziemke, J. Michael Davisson, Mike Aylesworth, Tom Saunders, Curt Nisly and John Jacob joined Democrats in voting against the measure.

House Bill 1001 would also put in place administrative tools that Gov. Eric Holcomb has said could allow him to end the statewide public health emergency. The provisions mean Indiana could keep receiving federal funding for Medicaid expenses and food assistance programs even without an emergency order in place. The bill would also allow the state health commissioner to issue a standing doctor’s order allowing pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11.

The bill would force employers who require the COVID-19 vaccine to provide a religious exemption to any employee who requests one and to provide medical exemptions to anyone with a signed note from a doctor, physician’s assistant or advanced practice registered nurse who says the vaccine is medically contraindicated for the employee.

Employees could also choose to undergo regular COVID-19 testing—at no cost to the employee—rather than being vaccinated. Employers would be able apply for a reimbursement from the state for the cost of testing through the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

HB 1001 also would ensure that employees whose exemptions are rejected and fired are eligible for unemployment benefits.

The bill’s author, Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, said he heard over and over in the 14 hours of public testimony on the bill that people are losing their jobs after declining to be vaccinated. “This bill needs to be about protecting Hoosier workers,” Lehman said. “It’s not about the vaccine. It’s not about the effectiveness. It’s about the people who are affected.”

Business leaders, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, are opposed to the vaccine-mandates provisions in the bill, saying decisions about requiring the COVID-19 vaccine should be left to employers.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, said the bill is being pushed by Republicans who claim they love the private sector, even as they undercut the ability of businesses to make decisions about their workplace.

“Leave them alone. Leave the businesses alone. If you can’t help them, leave them alone,” DeLaney said.

Jacob, who voted against HB 1001, said the bill does not do enough to stop vaccine mandates and protect individuals. He said without any penalties for businesses violating the law, they won’t follow it.

“This bill does nothing except make it look like we’re doing something,” he said. “Laws without significant penalties do nothing.”

HB 1001 will head to the Senate, where its future is uncertain. Senate Republicans are opting to take another route to try to end the public health emergency and employer vaccine mandates.

The Senate is considering Senate Bill 3, which also creates administrative tools that could lead Holcomb to end the emergency order. But the vaccine mandate language is absent from the Senate bill. A committee unanimously passed SB 3 last week, and the full Senate could take further action on it this week.

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39 thoughts on “Indiana House passes bill to limit employer vaccine mandates

  1. The Indiana House (and Senate, for that matter) are filled with ignorant, backward thinking people who have no business holding public office. There really should be a minimum IQ requirement for representing “we, the people”.

    1. Couldn’t have said it any better, Marshall. Undercutting the ability of businesses to make decisions about their own companies, while constantly crying foul over “injustice” and “rights of people to make their own decisions,” is absurd, and laughable.

    2. Marshall +1+1

      They are forgetting that Indiana is an At-Will state. If you don’t get the “requested” vaccination, you will be fired. Very simple with no recourse from the employee. Of course the ambulance chasers will waste everyone’s time and money, but you can be fired at anytime for no reason or any reason in Indiana.

  2. I thought the Republican Party stood for free markets and small government. Now they are advancing a big government business regulation agenda. Employment at will! As a business owner who has had over half my staff out of the office in the past week due to Covid, I must have the authority to operate a safe workplace.

    1. The vaccines do NOT prevent infection or transmission of the disease. Data coming out of the EU actually shows negative efficacy after a few months. Meaning those who are vaccinated are more likely to contract the disease. Research Absolute Risk Reduction (ARR) vs Relative Risk Reduction (RRR) pertaining to the efficacy of vaccines. Their is an article published by Lancet April 2020 that discusses the risk reduction of the COVID-19 vaccines. You will quickly realize the truth.

    2. Data coming out of the EU actually shows negative efficacy after a few months. Meaning those who are vaccinated are more likely to contract the disease. Research Absolute Risk Reduction (ARR) vs Relative Risk Reduction (RRR) pertaining to the efficacy of vaccines. Their is an article published by Lancet April 2020 that discusses the risk reduction of the COVID-19 vaccines. You will quickly realize the truth.

    3. So if vaccines were making people more likely to get COVID, if vaccines do nothing, shouldn’t hospitals be filled to the same or even higher percentage of the population?

      If vaccines don’t work, why aren’t 55% of the hospitalized patients (or whatever the percentage is in Indiana) those who were vaccinated?

      You’re right, it didn’t take long to realize the truth.

    4. “Piero Olliaro, professor of poverty-related infectious diseases at the University of Oxford and one of the authors of The Lancet comment, explained its intention and results to Lead Stories via email on May 27, 2021:

      It is extremely disappointing to see how information can be twisted and how divisive discussions have become especially on COVID-19 vaccines, as they obviously overlap with general vaccine hesitancy and antivax segments of the population.

      Bottom line: these vaccines are good public health interventions. Importantly, the effects of vaccination should not be seen merely as reducing individual risk, but its effects on reducing the risk in the entire population, with all its ramifications – reducing stress to health systems, hospital bed occupancy, societal costs, effects on economy, etc… a long list.

      We do not say vaccines do not work. We say vaccines do work, and add considerations about intrinsic vaccine efficacy and their effectiveness when used in different populations.“

      https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2021/05/fact-check-covid-19-vaccine-study-does-not-confirm-vaccine-efficacy-is-not-95-percent-efective.html

  3. There is no valid religious exemption – no major religion’s doctrine bans vaccinations.
    In fact, religions encourage vaccinations for everyone’s safety.

    1. But the Covid shots are not vaccines. They do not prevent spreading or contracting Covid. The shots have been proven to cause permanent organ damage and weaken the immune system. Why would anyone voluntarily take this shot? Why would anyone not fight against a mandate to take this shot? It’s unbelievable people are not revolting en masse.

    2. Because they get actual news, Steve.

      Also, you don’t understand what the word “proven” means.

      Enjoy paying more for health insurance as an unvaccinated person.

    3. Steve M., I don’t know where you get the notion that a vaccine is not a vaccine unless it is 100% effective. If you are not vaccinated and boosted,, the chances of your getting Covid-19 is much higher than someone who is vaccinated and boosted, and your chance of surviving Covid is much less. It’s all about logically analyzing the odds.

    1. Then that priest should write letters for his flock, which is all that’s needed under the current procedure.

      This bill cheapens religion by makes your faith whatever you say it is. That, or we’ve replaced God with politics. Both are scary propositions.

  4. This is seriously anti business and as manager of a small business, I resent it. Why shouldn’t I have the right to protect my employees, customers, and myself?

  5. “This bill needs to be about protecting Hoosier workers,” Representative Matt Lehman, Republican, from Berne, said. “It’s not about the vaccine. It’s not about the effectiveness. It’s about the people who are affected.”

    In other words, the only workers Matt Berne and his Republican colleagues care about are those who choose (for unfounded and selfish reasons) not to be vaccinated. The rest of us workers can go fly a kite as far as these Republicans are concerned. For Matt, the problem is making workplaces “safe” for the virus and the loonies who exhale it with every selfish breath. Republicans are not conservative in any sense of the word.

  6. From my perspective as a medical researcher and healthcare provider, I view the squabbling of the Governor and the Legislature on emergency declaration powers (HB1100), our attorney general lack of understanding of the Covid numbers, and now the House passing HB1001 as “the blind leading the blind.” It is clear that none of these dysfunctional governmental factions understand the nature of a pandemic with all of its complexities and the evolving nature of this health catastrophe. It is also clear to me that our Indiana State Health Commissioner either does not have the expertise or political skills to properly guide us through this health catastrophe that is raging in our State. Healthcare organizations and healthcare providers have been sounding the alarm on this blazing wildfire for a long time. However, our State government has turned a deaf ear. The “blind leading the blind” are leading us down the wrong path. Basic public health measures such as vaccinations, mask wearing, etc., etc., have been neglected for various reasons which have nothing to do with public health support. Citizens of our State should expect more public health neglect and tragedy in the coming weeks and months to come.
    Phillip D. Toth, MD, FACP

    1. How is the State Health Commissioner supposed to be more influential than the right wing media infrastructure?

  7. The question for our Commissioner is: Do you “follow orders” or resign in protest? For me, the answer is simple. If I would be in that situation, I would resign. As a physician, my guiding principle is to put patient’s needs first. This also implies the greater implications for public health and a wealth of scientific, medical information. These latter two categories are concepts not understood by politicians and the citizenry at large.

    Phillip D. Toth, MD, FACP

    1. As a physician, if you promote poisoning peoples bodies with with a shot that causes permanent damage, regardless of the FACT that it is ineffectual against COVID, you are violating the basic tenant of the Hypocratic oath…first do no harm. Unbelievable that a physician would be complicit.

    2. Phillip, they are well understood. There is a large chunk of the media infrastructure that is setup to deliberately distort facts and introduce mistruths in order to influence others and make money off them. This was true long before the pandemic but the pandemic and information around it has fallen victim to the same forces.

      Look at the 2020 election – to be a Republican in good standing, you must profess and repeat the lie that there was election fraud and Donald Trump actually won. Otherwise you are cast out and punished for disloyalty. The facts don’t matter – they lost every court case, recounts of multiple states multiple times showed no fraud, and the GOP recounted all the votes in Arizona and … found that Biden actually won by more votes. Heck, doesn’t even matter that Trump claimed he won the popular vote in 2016, convened a panel, and quietly disbanded it after finding no fraud. All these folks who consume all this nonsense still blather on about election fraud.

      Doesn’t matter the doctor when we live in a world in which facts don’t matter. Look at all the claims around the “facts” that vaccines cause damage or don’t work. Heck, these same folks claimed that we’d all explode from the 5G chip in the vaccines on January 5th, then the 19th. Last time I checked, despite the three COVID vaccinations I got, I have not exploded.

    1. The Republican Party started PROVIDING Covid shots, but the Democrat Party is mandating them; so they are the suicide party. No party should mandate medications. In this case, the manufacturers don’t claim their products prevent contracting or spreading Covid, so what is the benefit anyway? The products have caused more death and permanent organ damage than any other medication in history…why would anyone mandate that or willingly take it?

    2. CLAIM: There have been one million COVID-19 vaccine adverse events reported to the federal database VAERS.

      AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. VAERS is an early warning system through which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration keep tabs on signals of possible side effects from vaccines. However, the passive reporting system, which relies on unverified reports submitted by the general public, is not an official database for proving that the vaccine caused the adverse events reported.

      https://apnews.com/article/fact-checking-142387100461

  8. Individual liberties and freedoms are more important than capitalism. Agree that this bill does not go far enough. There should be penalties for any employer that chooses to coerce an employee into taking a medical treatment, especially an experimental injection with limited effectiveness and a questionable safety profile.

    1. Questionable safety profile? Over 9.3 billion people world wide have been vaccinated. The only thing questionable is the mentality of the people who say it’s not safe. Chemotherapy is not “safe” but we use it because it beats the alternative.

    2. And the highest adverse event data of any vaccine tracked by an exponential order.

      “Safe.”

  9. Fourth COVID vaccine still doesn’t stop Omicron, new Israeli study shows. So why are we requiring a vaccine that does not help. Sometimes you have to change directions when following the science.

    1. Michael, I think you misunderstand. The bill is designed to undercut business’ liberty to set their own rules regarding a workplace health/safety issue that has many implications for business owners. That is why the Indiana Chamber was unequivocal in its opposition. The issue is about elevating employees’ personal preference to avoid a health standard set by their employer over that employer’s business decision about one aspect of how their business runs most effectively. Analogous to giving employees of a machine shop veto power over the use of safety glasses or construction workers a statutory right to opt out of wearing hardhats or surgeons personal choice over the use of surgical masks in the OR.

      The Israeli study has nothing to do with what is being debated in Indiana, which is vaccination at all/refusal to do so. One quote, “Despite increased antibody levels, the fourth vaccine only offers a partial defense against the virus,” Gili Regev-Yochay, MD, director of the hospital’s infection prevention and control units, told reporters.

      The fact remains that more than 90% of serious COVID infections are owned by the unvaccinated. Those are people who have zero shots and what happens or doesn’t happen with a fourth shot in one study in another country that isn’t a part of this country’s best practice in a pandemic is interesting but irrelevant to the discussion. Your statement about “requiring a vaccine that does not help” is either completely ignorant or completely false.

    1. The response to the COVID pandemic by the Indiana legislature and most national Republicans shows a Republican party that either is or may as well be run by clueless anti-vaxers.

      Voting Republican is voting for more clueless anti-vaxers or more people who lie about elections. It’s up to all of us to determine what moral compromises we are willing to make. Some of us had lines that were crossed in 2015 and bailed, others made that decision during the last four years, and others … well, they’re all in at this point.

    2. There is a difference between being:

      – anti-vaxxx
      – pro-choice
      – pro-data
      – anti-political

      Name more subsets if you’d like.

      The left loves segregation.

    3. So does Putin, that’s why he fosters it.

      At some point you’ll realize your sources are a con.

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