State lawmakers hear from health care workers, organizations in vaccine mandate session

A legislative committee met to hear COVID-19-related testimony on Nov. 23, 2021.
A legislative committee met to hear COVID-19-related testimony on Nov. 23, 2021.(WPTA)
Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 4:36 PM EST
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INDIANAPOLIS (WPTA and AP) — Numerous Indiana medical and business groups argued against a Republican proposal aimed at ending the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency and forcing broad exemptions from workplace vaccination requirements.

The proposed changes to state law faced criticism during a legislative committee hearing Tuesday that it wrongly sends a message that the coronavirus pandemic is over at a time when Indiana’s infections and hospitalizations are rising again. Republican House Majority Leader Matt Lehman presented the proposal as a step toward protecting individual rights by allowing workers to claim medical or religious exemptions if their employers required COVID-19 vaccinations.

The proposal includes three actions that Gov. Eric Holcomb said would be key to his lifting of a statewide public health emergency. Holcomb has repeatedly extended that emergency in 30-day increments, but signaled that it could soon come to an end if such measures are taken by lawmakers.

“When extending the last state public health emergency for another 30 days, I asked my team to bring me a plan that would allow us to wind it down responsibly,” Holcomb said earlier this month. “They have presented me a plan that identifies three key items that must be preserved if I am to responsibly allow the state public health emergency to expire.

“To carry this out, I am working with Senator Bray and Speaker Huston to consider passing three key statutory changes to continue protecting Hoosiers by allowing for the continuation of enhanced federal matching funds for Medicaid expenditures, the continuation of the enhanced benefit for those receiving federal food assistance and extend the ability to efficiently vaccinate our 5- to 11-year-olds.”

Individuals who said they have lost their jobs -- or expect to lose them -- were among those who addressed the representatives and senators. Some supported the proposed changes, but many said they do not go far enough.

No action was anticipated on Tuesday, but legislative votes could come as soon as next week. The legislature cannot pass laws that supersede federal regulations that apply to, for example, health care workers.

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