INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Some conservative Indiana lawmakers wanting to stymie President Joe Biden’s planned COVID-19 vaccine mandates for private employers are facing skepticism from their own Republican leaders and the state’s largest business group.
While Biden has promised federal vaccination-or-testing regulations for all companies with 100 or more workers, bills are planned by some Indiana legislators who want to join other Republican-led states in trying to prohibit private companies from requiring vaccine shots.
Supporters of that action are already preparing to raise the issue again when the new Indiana legislative session starts in January, even though similar bills failed during the 2020 session.
“I just don’t think that anyone has any right to tell someone else what kind of medicine they’re to take in order to keep their job. That’s just outrageous,” said Republican state Sen. Jim Tomes of Wadesville.
Indiana law generally allows businesses to hire or fire non-union workers for any reason unless it is in violation of anti-discrimination laws covering age, gender or race.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has opposed Biden’s proposed federal mandate as a step too far even though he says he wishes “everyone would get the vaccine.”
Holcomb, however, isn’t joining the push to block businesses from adopting their own vaccine requirements.
“I’ve always said that I support and respect those companies that have mandates to make sure that their workforce is operational,” Holcomb said. “Sometimes there are some unintended consequences to that, people walk off the line. But every company that I’ve talked to that has gone down that road has said that we’ve done that risk analysis.”
Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar said business vaccine mandates in the state have primarily been limited to hospitals and other health care providers.
“It should be an employer’s decision," Brinegar said. "Whether it’s a presidential mandate or legislators trying to prohibit employers from determining what’s best for their workforce, we’re kind of getting it from both sides.”