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Senate approves less restrictive COVID-19 vaccine employer mandate bill

Brandon Smith
The Senate passed the controversial COVID-19 vaccine employer mandate bill, potentially setting up a showdown with the House over the bill’s final form.

The Senate passed the controversial COVID-19 vaccine employer mandate bill Tuesday, though it’s significantly less restrictive than the original House version.

The biggest change the Senate made to HB 1001 involves religious exemptions to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The House version forced businesses to grant those exemptions, no matter what. Sen. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper) said the Senate version doesn’t – it just requires employers to consider religious exemptions like they do now, following federal law.

“The employer could say, 'Well, you didn’t ask for it any other time. Why are you asking for it now?'" Messmer said. "They could question it; they could reject it.”

READ MORE: Faith, medicine and COVID-19: Why do religious vaccine exemptions exist?

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But even though the bill is less restrictive on employers than the original version, Sen. Chip Perfect (R-Lawrenceburg) said it’s unnecessary. He called the measure “illogical” and “legislative arrogance.”

“We think we know better how to manage the relationship between an employer and an employee?” Perfect said.

The House must now decide whether to accept the Senate’s changes or take the bill to conference committee for further negotiations.

Contact reporter Brandon at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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