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Hoosiers speak out on vaccine-mandate bill in 7-hour hearing

An Indiana House committee heard more than seven hours of testimony Thursday on a bill that would effectively ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates by employers.

Of more than 50 Hoosiers who spoke before the House Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee, the vast majority were anti-mandate and urged representatives to stop employers from requiring the vaccine for employees in Indiana.

“There is no right more intimate and fundamental than the right to choose what is directly injected into your body,” John Claussen said. “Your bills have been weak to protect us.”

Jason Stockberger said he was prepared to lose his job due to the vaccine mandate, but his exemption was accepted by his employer.

“The state of Indiana needs to protect its workforce from this type of mandate,” Stockberger said.

Donna Miller said she believes PCR swabs contain chemicals known to cause cancer and would like to have the option to refuse those as well.

“I am asking this legislative body to support their constituents and business owners by fighting against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate with legislation that protects us from federal government overreach,” Miller said.

The bill would regulate employer vaccine requirements in the workplace and make it easier for people to get exemptions. It does not require businesses to mandate the vaccine.

The exemptions include a medical exemption with a doctor’s note, due to religion, due to six months of natural immunity, or the option to test. If employees choose to be tested but fail to do so, then the employer may terminate the employee.

“This bill doesn’t require [employers] to do anything,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne. “We need to make sure Hoosier workers are protected.”

Lehman said he heard a lot of Hoosiers were worried about losing their jobs due to the possible vaccine mandates they may face from employers.

Currently, Indiana’s unemployment rate is 3%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bill also provides for the continuation of federal emergency funding. The funding is one of the reasons Gov. Eric Holcomb has kept the public health emergency in place. If passed, this could end the public health emergency that has been held since March 2020.

Some spoke in favor of employer mandates while more than 50 co-authors signaled their support for the bill.

According to the Indiana COVID-19 dashboard, there are 5,486 new positive cases and 17,704 total deaths. While the omicron variant hasn’t been reported in Indiana, it is projected to spread. Currently, 35% of ICU beds are being taken up by COVID patients.

The committee did not vote on the bill. No action will be taken until the 2022 session starts on Jan. 4.

Alexa Shrake is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.