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Politics & Government

Senate panel signs off on its own COVID-19 vaccine mandate ban

The front of the Idaho Capitol building showing the bell and stairs. Two people are standing on the left-hand side.
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio

Senate Republicans are moving forward with their attempt to ban most COVID-19 vaccine mandates for private businesses.

The bill approved by a Senate committee Thursday would only allow these mandates for hospitals and businesses affected by federal vaccine requirements.

Companies with employees who travel to states or countries with vaccine mandates could also require those workers to get the shot with proper notice.

“We’re just trying to keep from having discrimination against people,” said Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder, who sponsors the bill.

“We also believe that it’s really no one else’s business whether you’re vaccinated or you’re not,” Winder said.

Event organizers also wouldn’t be able to block unvaccinated ticketholders entry under the proposal.

House lawmakers passed a similar bill last week, though it was more stringent. It has yet to receive a hearing in the Senate.

Sen. Steven Thayn (R-Emmett) said the government has a duty to protect the rights of individuals and families.

“And one of the basic things that families need is the ability to earn a living,” Thayn said.

But big businesses that had previously advocated against any kind of government interference when it comes to workplace vaccination policies seemed split Thursday.

While Micron declined to endorse the bill, its lobbyist, Jason Kreizenbeck, asked lawmakers to hold off on implementing the law until May 1 so it could give proper notice to its sizable workforce.

Liza Leonard, director of public affairs at Ball Ventures, a commercial real estate developer, gave testimony on behalf of its CEO, Courtney Liddiard. Leonard said the measure simply adds more regulations on the private sector.

“As employers, we must have the ability to manage our employees in a manner that allows us to keep our businesses operational and our employees and clients safe,” she said.

Other concerns brought up by Sen. Grant Burgoyne (D-Boise) include questions over the bill’s constitutionality since it doesn’t say employers and others can’t discriminate against those who chose to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

It also doesn’t exempt small businesses or companies with just one employee. Opponents have repeatedly said this could mean those with disabilities or someone more susceptible to the coronavirus wouldn’t be able to screen home healthcare workers.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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