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Government/Politics

Future of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate exemptions bill is unclear

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Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
House Commerce and Labor Committee holds informal hearings for HB435.

It's now up to House Republican leaders to decide what's next for the bill that grants exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The legislation, HB435, would allow students and employees in the public and private sector to opt out of the shot if they don't want it by creating broad exemptions that could be claimed by anyone.

But legislators say it's important to tackle the subject with accurate information.

Lawmakers, mostly Democrats, interjected during witness testimony several times during the last two days of hearings for the bill in the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

That includes Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland), who says people cannot make good decisions on bad information that they are likely to see on social media.

"Things have to be called out to say that's not correct. When we look at our authority we have to look at what the CDC is putting out or what the World Health Organization is putting out, those are our subject matter experts when it comes to the pandemic," says Brent.

While the science shows the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, Republican leaders are looking for a consensus for the bill.

But their own caucus ranges from legislators wanting a ban on all vaccine mandates to others wanting to allow businesses or individuals to make their own decisions.

The future of the bill is up in the air. The next step would likely be for a committee to consider amendments, however the bill has not been officially sent to the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

The panel only held informal hearings on the bill. The committee chair, Rep. Dick Stein (R-Norwalk), says members have sent his office proposed amendments but Republican leadership would have to decide which arena they want those proposals to be considered.

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