Arkansas governor allows COVID-19 vaccine mandate opt-out bill to become law

Arkansas governor allows COVID-19 vaccine mandate opt-out bill to become law

Arkansas Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonOne bipartisan remedy to the wave of anti-LGBTQ legislative attacks? passing the Equality Act Sunday shows - Democrats' spending plan in the spotlight Arkansas governor says mandates are increasing vaccine hesitancy MORE (R) on Wednesday allowed two bills letting employees to opt out of vaccine mandates to become laws without his signature.

Hutchinson allowed Arkansas state Senate Bill 739 and House Bill 1977 to become law without signing them, calling them both "unnecessary" and "harmful to our goal of encouraging vaccines." Hutchinson said he did not veto the bills to allow them to be challenged in court in the 90 days before they go into effect.

“These bills are unnecessary, and the conversation has been harmful to our goal of encouraging vaccines. For those reasons I will not sign the bills into law with my signature. I will allow them to become law without signing," Hutchinson said.

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As The Associated Press noted, bills in Arkansas become law after sitting on the governor's desk for five days, a tactic governors have used to express opposition to a bill.

These bills were designed to push back against President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Methane fee faces negotiations White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege The No Surprises Act:  a bill long overdue MORE's vaccine mandate for federal employees.

“I am opposed to the current mandate by the Biden Administration, but the solution is not to place additional mandates on employers at the state government level. The solution is not to put employers in a squeeze play between state and federal law," the Arkansas governor said. “Employers need the freedom to protect their employees and their customers, and government should not interfere with that freedom through mandates."

Hutchinson criticized the bills for creating "distrust and additional hesitancy" toward the COVID-19 vaccine.

"The vaccines are safe, and Arkansans need to get vaccinated, but not through mandates," he added.

According to the Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 tracker, around 47 percent of Arkansas residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while 56 percent have received at least one dose of a vaccine.