INDIANAPOLIS – The 2022 Indiana legislative session is in full swing as lawmakers debate hot button issues, from vaccine mandates to guidelines on school curricula.
The House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would limit what private employers can do when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations. With House Bill 1001, workers can opt for weekly testing instead of getting vaccinated. Employers would pay for the tests, but can apply for a partial reimbursement from the state. If an employee’s vaccination exemption is denied, they would be able to apply for unemployment benefits.
It’s a debate that stretches all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Just last week the Justices struck down President Biden’s federal vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 or more workers. After the ruling in Washington, lawmakers here in Indiana say the bill is more important now than ever. It’s being met with pushback, however, from medical and business professionals across the state, who say it could be a step in the wrong direction. Though experts are pointing to signs of an imminent decline in some areas, the state continues to experience record-high COVID case counts and hospitalizations.
“This is not the time to make it more difficult for employers to determine their vaccination policy,” said Kevin Brinegar, President and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
Employees who work at facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid recipients would reportedly still have to follow a federal mandate. The Supreme Court upheld the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement for healthcare workers. Still, many Hoosiers are concerned about House Bill 1001’s wide-ranging impact, including attorney Grayson Harbour.
“It will have broad implications for the state and will affect the sweeping majority of Indiana employers,” Harbour said.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are adding their voice to the nationwide debate on “Critical Race Theory” and how to teach topics of race in the classroom. They are considering House Bill 1134, which would ban the teaching of certain concepts – including that “students of any race, religion, sex, or political affiliation are superior or inferior to another.”
One provision in the bill allows parents to opt their children out of certain educational activities, under specific conditions.
Teacher unions and other groups are concerned about the state’s approach. Some call it outright racist.
A coalition of faith, civil rights, and public education leaders rallied at the Statehouse in opposition to House Bill 1134. Sarah Williams of the Marion County Commission on Youth says the bill does a lot more than regulate curriculum.
“This is not about transparency at all,” Williams said. “It’s about blindfolding young Hoosiers from the reality of our history, and from thinking critically about issues of the day.”
Watch more from Statehouse Reporter Kristen Eskow in the video above.