COLUMBUS — After successfully navigating the Ohio House, proponents of a bill that would stop public and private COVID-19 vaccination mandates in the state have begun making their case in the Senate.
House Bill 218 drew opposition from business organizations and the health care industry before passing the House earlier this month. Those groups now have moved their fight to the Senate.
“Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace. However, HB 218 limits their options as they try to ensure the safety and well-being of employees and customers,” Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Stivers said Tuesday.
“The Ohio Chamber continues to oppose any legislation that guarantees government intrusion into the private sector’s ability to manage their own workplace.”
The bill prohibits a school, college, university or employer from requiring a student or employee to receive a vaccine if it has not been given a full biologics license or been granted full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The bill does not apply to employees of children’s hospitals or employees who work in critical care units of hospitals.
Bill sponsor Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, testified Tuesday before the Senate General Government Budget Committee, saying the legislation is about protecting medical freedoms for Ohio students and workers.
“House Bill 218 will ensure that students and employees are not saddled with the costs of testing or masking if they are granted an exemption from getting a vaccine, and it will prevent discrimination against a student based solely on their vaccination status while in a school setting or on school property,” Cutrona said.
The committee received testimony from nine people Tuesday, all in support of the legislation.
House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, twice pulled a similar bill from the House floor and shutdown a committee hearing planned for another bill that would prohibit vaccination mandates. Cupp said at the time the House was moving on to other legislative matters.
Instead, the House passed HB 218, which was introduced in March as a bill to extend curfews for bars and restaurants but had that language removed after a committee hearing a day before its final House vote and replaced with language that adds a personal conscience exemption to vaccination mandates in the state.
Cupp called the legislation balanced and responsible and said it protects the rights of Ohioans and the public health.