Vaccine bill returns for more hearings

Supporters of a plan to help Ohioans avoid vaccine mandates will return to the Ohio Statehouse Wednesday for another round of hearings on the proposal.

Backers like Rep. Jena Powell, R- Arcanum have been supporting a strong bill that clearly defined people’s rights to refuse the vaccine, even if their employer mandated it.

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“An employee should not be fired for not taking a vaccine. That’s what it really comes down to. Employees do have the ability to make personal health care decisions, working with their private health care provider,” Powell said.

Another committee had already approved the proposal last week on a party-line vote, but when it went to the full House for a vote, House Speaker Bob Cupp, R- Lima, found it did not have enough support.

In response, he pulled it from the agenda and sent it back to committee. Rather than return it to the House Health Committee, Cupp directed it to the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

It is unclear if the new committee will start all over again with new testimony from people who are for or against the bill, or if they will focus on potential changes.

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The plan has attracted opposition on two fronts. Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said he does not favor any legislation that encourages people to avoid the coronavirus vaccine.

In an interview with WHIO-TV, Patterson said he would prefer that the General Assembly step back from the issue and leave it up to public health experts.

“What I would ask the Legislature to do is nothing. The best actions of our Legislature have been recently have been when they have been out of session and maybe they should take a break until after Christmas,” Patterson said.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the Biden administration is preparing to issue details on their vaccine mandate for companies that employ 100 or more workers.

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Sen. Sherrod Brown, D- Ohio, told WHIO-TV that he supports the move because it will lead to more people being vaccinated. He opposes steps by the Ohio General Assembly that promote avoiding of the vaccine with the Vaccine Freedom Bill.

“They should be ashamed of themselves. They call themselves pro-life and try to stop children from getting vaccinated, employees from getting vaccinated,” Brown said.

Hearings on the vaccine plan, HB 435, are set for Wednesday and Thursday.

The committee could entertain potential changes to the plan in time for a possible vote by the full House next week.

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