Businesses trying to stop two vaccine bills

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce is re-doubling efforts to stop passage of any vaccine plan at the Ohio Statehouse that cuts into the ability of businesses to set their own employee COVID safety policies.

Chamber President and CEO Steve Stivers, a former member of Congress and former state lawmaker, told WHIO-TV that businesses oppose two proposals pending in the Ohio House. The proposals, HB 248 and HB 435, widen workers’ ability to avoid vaccine mandates from their employer.

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Lawmakers who support the plans call them “Vaccine Freedom” bills. Stivers doesn’t see it that way.

“They have chosen to trample on employer rights which I have a giant problem with. Employers in Ohio and in every other state have been able to set the terms of employment for over 200 years,” Stivers said.

House Bill 248 was heard in committee multiple times over several months. Later, HB 435 emerged as the Republican leadership’s preferred plan. On Tuesday, the Ohio House Health Committee passed HB 435, which allows employees to cite “reasons of conscience” to decline vaccination. The employee would only need to sign a form and could not be questioned about it or discriminated against for their choice under the bill.

The measure was scheduled for a vote of the full House of Representatives Wednesday, but when several Republicans raised issues with the bill, it was sent back to committee. Some conservatives said it did not go far enough to protect people’s freedom.

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In his ongoing discussions with lawmakers, Stivers said he will remind them that HB 435 will amount to a huge unfunded mandate for business. According to Stivers, if a company mandates a vaccine and the worker turns it down, the worker can elect to be tested for COVID-19 at the company’s expense. Stivers said one company told him that provision alone would cost them $6 million a year.

As the bill is being reconsidered in committee, Stivers said he is telling lawmakers 99 percent of his member companies will not require a vaccine unless they are forced to do it. They only want to make their own decisions about employee health and safety and not have the government tell them how to do it. So, Stivers is stepping-up his discussions with members of the Ohio House “to make sure that the Legislature doesn’t break more than they fix. And I believe in the current version of those bills they do break more than they fix. We’re trying to get that message out there,” Stivers said.