Vaccine bill hits detour

A fast-moving plan to give Ohioans more ways to avoid a coronavirus vaccine mandate at work hit a detour Wednesday that, rather than passing in the Ohio House, sent it back to committee for further fine-tuning. House Bill 435 was unveiled Tuesday at the Statehouse and won passage in the Ohio House Health Committee.  It was scheduled for a vote of the full House Wednesday but was pulled from the agenda and pushed back to committee for changes.

In a written statement, House Speaker Bob Cupp, R- Lima, said “We’ve had a lot of very good, very productive conversations on House Bill 435. There are a few additional issues our members would like more time to explore. I think it’s important that we have a consensus within our caucus on how we move forward, so we’re going to take time to do that.”

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Even before the House session Wednesday, members from the Miami Valley who support the overall cause of freedom from vaccine mandates said they were a “no” vote because the bill did not go far enough. Rep. Rodney Creech, R-West Alexandria, told WHIO-TV that the bill needed to be stronger to protect people’s rights. After the House session, Rep. Jena Powell, R- Arcanum, said the bill could have been fixed on the House floor.

“Today is an indication of how out of touch leadership was with our constituents and our members. There should have been a bill passed today. But instead, leadership teed us up with a very faulty bill that did not protect Ohio employees with vaccine mandates,” Powell said.

The proposal is opposed by both the Ohio Hospital Association and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Chamber of Commerce CEO Steve Stivers said “House Bill 435 infringes upon the rights of Ohio’s employers. One-size-fits-all government mandates limiting employer rights are not the right approach.  It is imperative that we let our businesses manage their workplaces free from government interference.”

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A group called the “Ohio Vaccine Coalition,” that represents businesses and health care organizations also voiced their opposition to the bill. “Unfortunately, the provisions of House Bill 435 fall short of what our state needs as we work toward pandemic recovery, and this bill does not address the concerns expressed by the medical, business and university communities about prior proposals of a similar nature,” the coalition said in a statement.

The bill now goes back to committee where unspecified changes will likely be made. Rep. Creech wants a provision removed that says workers who change jobs would not be protected from vaccine mandates at work. At the same time, Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, wants changes made to limit the bill to cover only public employees, so that government agencies could not force employees to get the shot, leaving private businesses to decide for themselves what they want to do about vaccination mandates.

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