INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Republican lawmakers have filed a bill that would limit COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The proposal was introduced earlier this month and has faced criticism from business leaders and medical experts, along with some other Hoosiers.
More than 50 Indiana House Republicans have signed on as co-authors of House Bill 1001, which has been made a big priority this session for legislative leadership.
“I think you have to have this balance between the rights of the individual and the rights of the employer,” said State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis), one of the co-authors.
The bill would require any employer with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate to also offer a testing option, and the cost of testing would be covered by the employer, not the employee.
When asked about concerns over placing testing expenses on business owners, State Rep. Behning responded, “Like I said, it’s a balance. And as this moves through the process, we’ll probably continue to have a discussion on it.”
The proposal was criticized by Indiana business leaders during a public meeting last week.
But some others argue it doesn’t go far enough.
“I would like to see it recognize natural immunity more thoroughly and maybe put some teeth in it should an employer not comply with the letter of the law,” said State Rep. Mike Speedy (R-Indianapolis), another co-author.
Democrats are opposed to the bill, arguing Republicans are playing politics and hurting businesses in the process.
“I don’t think we should be doing anything at this critical point when we are trying to recover our economy and balance that with protecting life,” said State Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis).
Meanwhile, medical experts have concerns of their own.
Dr. Stephen Tharp, a former president of the Indiana State Medical Association who testified against the proposal last week, argued the bill could cause fewer people to get vaccinated if it becomes law.
“That does not make any sense,” said Dr. Tharp, who currently serves as health officer for Clinton County. “That opposes what we need to do for public health.”
Both Behning and Speedy said they expect changes will be made to the legislation going forward. The bill will be considered in January.
Before this was filed as a bill, one change lawmakers have already made is eliminating language that specifically allowed women who are pregnant or may become pregnant to file a medical exemption against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“We’re very happy for the changes that were made based on our testimony, so that’s helpful,” Dr. Tharp said. “But we still have a long way’s to go.”
State Rep. Behning said he believes pregnancy or expected pregnancy would still be covered under medical exemptions within the proposal.
A spokesperson for Gov. Eric Holcomb said Tuesday the governor will continue working with lawmakers on the proposal. While speaking with reporters last week, Holcomb did not express support nor opposition to the measure.