Vaccine bill falls short again, mandates to continue

COLUMBUS — What once appeared to be a sure-thing issue for Statehouse Republicans has ground to a complete halt.

It began several months ago with a plan to prohibit vaccine mandates by employers. Later, testimony before the Ohio Health Committee went viral on-line when a woman claimed that the coronavirus vaccine magnetizes a person’s blood stream.

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She even pressed a key to her skin and even though it did not stick, she continued to claim the vaccines were having unwanted side-effects on people’s bodies. Multiple experts, from the member of the health committee who is a doctor to the State Health Director, refuted the claim.

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Another round of hearings produced a new bill that widened the exemptions people could claim at work to avoid a vaccine mandate. It said people could decline the vaccine “for reasons of conscience” and face no challenges from their employer. “It’s about freedom. If you want to take the vaccine, take the vaccine. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to,” said Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton.

Two weeks ago, the bill was scheduled to go to the floor of the Ohio House for a vote, but it was removed from the agenda for lack of sufficient support. Then, on Wednesday, despite efforts to win more Republican votes, the once again bill did not make it to the floor for a vote, despite being on the original agenda for the session.

Miami Valley Representative Jena Powell, R- Arcanum, said she supports the bill but argued the version that was about to go up for a vote did not go far enough to protect people who do not want to get the vaccine. “We have to ensure that every Ohioan has the ability to work, live and play in Ohio with freedom, whether they’re vaccinated or unvaccinated. That should be a personal choice. That information should not be readily available to all Ohioans, and they should not be discriminated against depending on what they choose to do,” Powell said.

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House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, in a written statement said the bill will not return to committee for further hearings. “After countless hours of hearings and deliberation on this topic, there is still no consensus on how or whether to move forward. Consequently, the House at this time will pause additional hearings on this matter,” Cupp said. The Speaker stopped short of saying the bill is completely dead with no chance of returning to life. His statement ended with: " We are continuing our work on other legislative matters that are important to Ohio and its people.”

Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, had hoped to have the bill passed Wednesday and sent to the Ohio Senate for their consideration. With all Democrats opposing the bill and Republicans divided, there appeared to be no chance for passage.

His own caucus could not agree on which version of the bill should move forward. “I’m concerned that some of my colleagues sacrificed the good for the perfect. And now 98 percent of the people of the state of Ohio that would have been protected from mandates, from mandates at work, will not be protected.” Koehler said.

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