Poll backs lawmakers’ moves to restrict employer vaccine mandates

  • Comments
  • Print

A new poll suggests legislation in the Indiana House to restrict employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees would accomplish what many Hoosiers want.

The survey of 576 adult Hoosiers by the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University shows that while 30% support employer vaccine mandates, the majority support some other approach. Forty percent want employers only to encourage vaccines and another 28% don’t want employers to encourage or require the shots.

Results of the statewide survey were released Thursday as the Indiana House Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee listened to seven hours of public testimony on House Bill 1001. The measure would effectively force employers who require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees to allow medical or religious exemptions without question.

The online survey was conducted over two weeks in mid-November, and used demographic 2020 Census data to send it out to a sample size of Hoosiers generally representative of the population of Indiana. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points.

Chad Kinsella, managing director of the Bowen Center for Public Affairs, said the poll results were not surprising. But he said Indiana was more of a middle ground between states such as Texas, where state lawmakers are looking to ban employer-enforced vaccine mandates altogether, and California, which has more iron-clad mandates for businesses, health care workers and schools.

Arguments from those who testified on the Indiana House bill on Thursday mirrored comments made at another lengthy public hearing on the same concepts in November.

Some Indiana doctors and health experts warned  that the Republican-backed proposal aimed at limiting workplace COVID-19 vaccination requirements would hurt efforts to stem the illness as the state’s hospitals are strained with their highest-ever overall patient counts.

Dr. Gabriel Bosslet, an Indiana University Health critical care physician, told the committee that he’s seen people “die needlessly” because they didn’t get vaccinated and was frustrated with an intensive care unit where nearly all COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

Jason Stockberger was among those in support of the bill. He said the job he’s worked at for 29 years requires COVID-19 vaccination. While he received an exemption, he said he hoped the bill would force his employer to uphold it.

“I was and still am prepared to lose my job over this issue. Fortunately, my exemption was accepted like last week. However, not knowing what the future holds is uncertain,” Stockberger said.

Some of the state’s largest business associations, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Indy Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Manufacturers Association, again testified in opposition to such restrictions on businesses mandating vaccines. But representatives said they would be willing to work with lawmakers on amendments.

“I’m here today unfortunately to deliver a message from our members and our board of directors, and that message is, when it comes to employer vaccination policies. Please stay out of our business operations,” Indiana Chamber CEO and President Kevin Brinegar said.

A main concern of the Indiana Chamber is the language that would require alternative weekly COVID-19 testing, if offered, to be covered at no cost to the employee. Brinegar said that effectively creates a “testing tax” for employers to pay. He said it could cause employers to abandon their current vaccine requirements, and dissuade others to implement them.

Brinegar said he wanted to work with lawmakers to amend the bill to a point where the chamber could support it.

Rep. Matt Lehman, the bill’s author, said he is working on a sweeping amendment to add to the bill when the committee meets to vote on the measure once the legislature officially reconvenes on Jan. 4.

He said amendment likely would address the concerns about testing costs, among other issues raised during both rounds of testimony.

Another change Lehman, R-Berne, is considering is adding a penalty for employers who do not grant the required exemptions. He said he is looking at allowing employees who are denied exemptions and fired to be able to draw unemployment at the expense of the employer.

That is a provision Brinegar said the chamber would oppose.

Still, Lehman said he was a little more optimistic about the business community’s willingness to work with him on the legislation following Thursday’s testimony.

“I think the business community has a little bit of work to do  with us on some of those nuances of how we adopt all this,” Lehman said. “But I heard more today, I think, some additional, ‘We’re willing to work,’ than I heard two weeks ago.”

The bill is still expected to be on a fast track to passage in the House once session starts on Jan. 4. Lehman said his goal is to have an amendment ready to be adopted in committee on Jan. 4, and then have the bill on the House floor for a full vote by Jan. 10.

If the bill clears the House, it would advance to the Senate for further consideration.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

4 thoughts on “Poll backs lawmakers’ moves to restrict employer vaccine mandates

  1. Indiana continues to lead in so many ways when it comes to public health. Obviously, but not in a good way. I am sure that no one realizes, that if you have an active case of tuberculosis, you are required BY LAW to take the TB medicine. If someone absolutely refused to take the TB medication, then that person can be jailed and forced to take the medication. The Covid pandemic has been so much more devastating especially here in Indiana. In many ways, Indiana is leading including positivity rate, poor rate of vaccination, high hospitalization rates, etc. As of today, Indiana only has 52% of its population vaccinated. Positively rate in new individuals is 25.5% based in the Indiana’s own dashboard information. Indiana Hospitals are overwhelmed. It is beyond believe that our legislature cares more about money than the health of its citizens. However, if Covid hits one of their personal family members, then they sing a different tune. We, in Indiana, have own unique brand of schizophrenia. Our legislators need to rethink their responsibilities when they try to legislate public health policy. One might consider and even argue that the legislators and the Governor should take personal responsibility for the deaths of some many Hoosiers by not mandating masks, vaccinations (including boosters), social distancing rules, etc. It is healthcare crisis!!!. Who is going to put public health at the top of our collective priority risk where it should be during this pandemic?

    1. It’s time to get the politicians out of medicine and have them stop screwing around with career scientists.

      Headline: Retiring NIH director Dr. Francis Collins faced off with Trump over refusing to endorse disproven COVID treatments

      “In a wide-ranging interview covering his career, the pandemic and more, Collins told Braver he has done everything he could to stay out of partisan political debates because “it really is not a place where medical research belongs.”

      “Collins also told Braver he resisted attacks from the right calling him to fire one of his key team members – Dr. Anthony Fauci.”

      “Can you imagine a circumstance where the director of the NIH, somebody who believes in science, would submit to political pressures and fire the greatest expert in infectious diseases the world has known just to satisfy political concerns?” Collins asked.”


    2. Headline: “House oversight committee releases report detailing efforts of Trump administration officials to ‘undermine’ Covid-19 efforts in US”

      “Trump administration officials made “deliberate efforts to undermine the nation’s coronavirus response for political purposes,” a House oversight committee led by Democrats said in a report released Friday.”

      “The committee, which spent months working to interview former Trump officials, said the administration worked to undermine the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic by blocking officials from speaking publicly, watering down testing guidance and attempting to interfere with other public health guidance.”

      “Many pieces of the report were a summation of documents and interviews they’ve released throughout the year, but the report also outlined new examples where health guidance was adapted despite officials’ concerns about the potential harmful effects of the changes.”