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Alabama Senate passes two Republican-led anti-vaccine discrimination bills

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed two bills aimed at protecting individuals’ rights concerning COVID-19 vaccines.

While the special session of the state legislature was called to address the decennial redistricting process, Republicans have also elected to take on the issue of vaccine mandates. The upper chamber took up debate on two pieces of legislation which received favorable reports from the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee on Monday.

Senate Bill 9, sponsored by State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne), would require employers to allow their employees to claim exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine for religious or medical reasons. The legislation would apply to all employers, private and public.

Should an employer object to a worker’s claimed exemption, it can appeal to the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL). In the event that ADOL upholds the employee’s stated exemption, the employer would have the opportunity to appeal to a circuit court. According to Elliott, the bill is crafted in a broad manner so employees may have their exemption upheld.

While their efforts were to no avail, Senate Democrats expressed their fierce objections to Elliott’s legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), in particular, adamantly conveyed his dissent to the bill. The senator claimed the bill allows individuals “the right to tell the big lie,” a term popularized by progressives opposed to former President Donald Trump. He also claimed the legislation would permit individuals to “make up excuses” for not receiving the vaccine.

Elliott asserted that the legislation was introduced as an attempt to defend workers from having to decide whether to take the vaccine against their will or lose their jobs as a result. He said Republicans’ efforts were “to protect those folks that are trying to provide for their family.”

“The decision to get the vaccine or to not get the vaccine is a personal choice that should be left up to the individual, it is certainly not something that should be forced on Alabamians by politicians in Washington, D.C.,” stated Elliott. “My legislation will require employers to allow an exemption for employees who choose not to take the vaccine due to either religious or medical reasons.”

He added, “This bill will, in effect, make it so that no employer – private or public – has the ability to require an employee to get the COVID-19 vaccine against their will. I am proud of this legislation and the protection that it will give to Alabamians across our state.”

Senate Bill 15, authored by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), seeks to strengthen protections provided to Alabamians in a previous bill he passed into law.

The state’s ban on vaccine passports prohibits the issuance of documentation for the purpose of disclosing individuals’ vaccination status. Orr’s new bill authorizes the attorney general to bring civil action against violators of the vaccine passport ban.

“This bill expands upon a law I sponsored in the last legislative session to ban so-called ‘vaccine passports,’ so that stadiums, venues, etc. will not be allowed to require proof of vaccination for entry,” Orr stated. “Entities operating in the state of Alabama should not be able to dictate to Alabamians that their participation in events be dependent on making a personal medical choice regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Additionally, the legislation would also disallow minors in K-12 schools to accept a COVID-19 vaccine without first obtaining parental consent. The bill would also forbid educational institutions from probing into students’ vaccination status without parents’ approval.

“[N]o one should not be discriminated against based on their vaccination status, and this law helps to ensure that Alabamians will be protected and free to make their own medical decisions without having their freedoms infringed upon by vaccine passports or other disruptive vaccine mandates,” declared Orr.

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) slammed President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates and asserted that the state is acting to protect the edicts from being enforced upon its citizens.

“The Biden administration’s vaccine mandates are a reckless federal government overreach that infringe on Alabamians’ liberty and freedom of personal choice, and could cause significant economic harm to Alabama and Americans across the country,” proclaimed Reed. “Our state has already taken several steps to combat these mandates through an executive order issued by Governor Ivey and a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General’s office, of which I fully support.”

 

He added, “Now the Alabama Senate has exercised its responsibility to the people of Alabama by passing legislation out of the Senate that will help ensure that Alabamians won’t have to make the choice between taking a vaccine they don’t want and losing their livelihood and personal freedoms.”

Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) blasted the White House’s vaccine mandates as being “un-American.” He stated that the goal of Senate Republicans was to defend “people’s livelihoods and their freedom to make very personal decisions that’s best for them and their bodies.”

“Senate Republicans are determined to fight back in full force against the unconstitutional vaccine mandates that the federal government wants to impose on Alabamians,” declared Scofield. “These mandates are a violation of our personal freedoms, and we will not stand by and allow the federal government to irrationally overstep its constitutional boundaries. I am proud of the diligent work that has taken place within the Republican Caucus to protect the rights of our people, especially with the efforts led by Elliott and Orr.”

The two pieces of legislation will now head to the Alabama House of Representatives, where it is expected to be well-received among the majority party.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL