Arkansas lawmakers advance bill prohibiting businesses from demanding workers’ vaccine status
Arkansas lawmakers advanced a bill on Thursday prohibiting businesses from requiring workers to disclose whether they’re vaccinated against COVID-19, The Associated Press reported.
The majority-GOP state Senate voted 22-11 in favor of the measure which would give the “right of privacy” for state employees and contractors regarding their vaccination status.
A state House panel endorsed the proposed legislation, sending it to the full House for the final vote.
The proposed bill wouldn’t take effect until early 2022 since it failed to win two-thirds of support in the Senate, which is needed for the bill to take effect immediately, according to the AP.
The proposed legislation will take effect in 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.
Business groups and economic development officials argued that the new law will be devastating for companies, potentially forcing them to choose between paying federal fines for not complying with the vaccine mandate or being sued for not complying with the state law.
“We are shredding employment at will in Arkansas if you pass this bill and it becomes law,” Arkansas’ Chamber of Commerce Randy Zook told the House committee.
The restriction will also affect Medicare and Medicaid funding for health care facilities that are required to collect information about the number of vaccinated employees, the AP reported.
The proposed legislation comes as a response to President Biden’s executive order last month requiring private employers with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccine and daily testing, also requiring vaccines for federal workers and contractors.
Supporters of the measure said they will use the next three months to adjust the restriction and address the issues opponents have raised if the law is enacted, the AP reported.
“We need to get this passed now to get the clock ticking,” state Rep. John Payton (R) said.
The bill will be sent to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s (R) desk even though he expressed concern about the state legislature’s attempts to prevent businesses from having employees vaccinated, the AP noted.