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 Gov. Eric Holcomb 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.”
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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 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.
This story has been updated.