/Mississippi House passes anti-vaccine mandate bill

Mississippi House passes anti-vaccine mandate bill

House Speaker Philip Gunn authored the bill as a response to the ongoing battle between those who oppose President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates. While some of these mandates were upheld by federal courts, others were not. The bill was passed with 74 to 41 votes. All Democrats, except Rep. Tom Miles from Forest, voted no. It exempts employees of private companies from the mandate to get vaccinated. However, it would also prohibit state and local government entities from imposing a vaccine mandate on employees. These entities would also be prohibited from withholding services from those who have not opted in. The bill would also apply to the National Guard. The U.S. Department of Defense mandated that members of the National Guard be vaccinated. This issue is currently being litigated in federal court. The bill was subject to lengthy and sometimes terse debate. Sam Mims (R-McComb), House Public Health Chairman, had to answer many questions. Rep. Shanda Yates (I-Jackson) said, “I don’t see where this bill defines truly held religious beliefs.” “… Who bears the burden of proof? Employees or employers? We’re exposing all of our employers to lawsuits. Our Republican-led, pro-business supermajority is attacking our private businesses.” Rep. Ed Blackmon (D-Canton) asked, and the answer was “Yes”. Thomas Reynolds, D.Charleston, stated that George Washington ordered that Continental troops be vaccinated against smallpox, which was raging in the country at that time. Reynolds stated, “There is precedent for vaccinations in our National Guard.” Mims stated, “We are giving religious freedom to our public employees in Mississippi… It will be up that employer to verify that employee is sincere.” Percy Watson (D-Hattiesburg), said, “Maybe you missed something. After the vote, Rep. John Hines (D-Greenville) said that “So, we’ve stated that a business does not have to serve anyone if they’re LGBTQ, and doesn’t need to bake them any cake or other food if they don’t want to.” We’re now telling them that they must serve or employ someone. They just pick and chose who has liberty or rights.” Hines was speaking about a 2016 bill that allowed entities to refuse to provide services to religiously motivated individuals. The legislation’s impact is unclear. The president proposed a variety of vaccine mandates that include religious exemptions and allow people who don’t want to get vaccinated to have regular COVID-19 testing. There are few, if any, governmental entities that have mandated vaccines in the state. If the president wins in court on his mandate that all federally funded entities and companies require their employees to get vaccinated, it is not clear how many Mississippi businesses, like Ingalls Shipbuilding, will be affected by the legislation. Ingalls, a dependent company on federal contracts could be placed in an uncertain position of having to decide whether to comply with federal or state mandates.