COLUMBUS, Ohio — The bill expanding exemptions for Ohioans who do not want to get the COVID-19 vaccine hit a roadblock at the Statehouse on Wednesday.
What You Need To Know
- House Bill 435, which is also called the Ohio COVID-19 Vaccine Fairness Act, was returned to the Ohio House Rules and Reference Committee
- The Ohio COVID-19 Vaccine Fairness Act bans K-12 schools, public and private colleges and businesses from mandating any COVID-19 vaccine that has not been fully approved by the FDA
- The bill allows hospitals to still require its staff to be vaccinated from COVID-19
- The bill was sent to the House by the committee Tuesday
House Bill 435, which is also called the Ohio COVID-19 Vaccine Fairness Act, was sent backwards in the process to get it passed. Instead of having a full House vote, House Republicans decided the Ohio House Rules and Reference Committee should take a closer look at the bill.
House Republican leadership had hoped to fast track the bill after the Ohio House Health Committee rubber stamped it Tuesday. Committee members had just minutes to review the bill prior to the first and only hearing.
"Members wanted to take a little more time to consider some of the provisions and some new ideas surfaced," said Ohio House Speaker Robert Cupp, R-Lima.
The decision to not have a full vote Wednesday came as an avalanche of opposition poured in from the business and medical communities.
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce said it “infringes upon the rights of Ohio’s employers. One-size-fits-all government mandates limiting employer rights are not the right approach."
The Ohio Vaccine Coalition, which represents more than 100 businesses and healthcare organizations, said the bill "falls short of what our state needs as we work toward pandemic recovery."
As it stands now, the Ohio COVID-19 Vaccine Fairness Act bans K-12 schools, public and private colleges and businesses from mandating any COVID-19 vaccine that has not been fully approved by the FDA. Students and employees could also refuse to take the shots based on medical reasons, natural immunity, personal reasons or religious beliefs.
The bill allows hospitals to still require its staff to be vaccinated from COVID-19. It would last until July 2023 as would a law shielding first responders, businesses and schools from COVID-19 related lawsuits.
"I'm hopeful. There's still a desire among our caucus and a sense of urgency to try to get something done to provide some protections for individuals that are either unable or unwilling to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Ohio House Assistant Majority Floor Leader Rick Carfagna, R-Genoa Township. “We think that this still strikes a sensible balance between allowing those individuals medical freedom but also giving the flexibility to employers to protect for public safety.”
Rep. Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, an epidemiologist, who is the Ranking Member on the House Health Committee, said she is pleased the bill did not move forward because she said it was not properly vetted by the public.
"I would like to see public hearings on this bill but I think more importantly, I would like to see recognition from this body that continuing to undermine trust in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine is not good for the health of Ohioans," said Russo.
Cupp shot down the notion that public hearings were not had on the bill because thousands of people testified on previous COVID-19 bills. At this point, it is likely House Bill 435 will not be implemented until next year if ever without an emergency clause.
Cupp also said getting a veto-proof majority has not been considered in case Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, sends it back to the legislature.