UPDATE: A House bill that would give employees exemptions to workplace vaccine mandates and end Indiana’s state of emergency passed on to the Senate with a vote of 57-35 Tuesday.

All Democrats and seven Republicans voted no on House Bill 1001, which would require businesses implementing a vaccine mandate to have exemptions for medical and religious reasons. Employees would also be able to undergo weekly testing or prove natural immunity every six months instead of getting vaccinated.

The bill is authored by Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne. At the House session, Lehman said the bill was about protecting Hoosier workers and balancing the rights of an employer to create a vaccine requirement and the rights of an employee to forgo it.

As the House Education Committee voted to pass the bill to the full House last week, the Supreme Court announced two decisions regarding two of the federal mandates.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Occupational Safety and Health Administration vaccine mandate Thursday, which would have forced businesses with over 100 employees to require the COVID-19 vaccine, while it upheld the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services mandate on healthcare providers with Medicare or Medicaid funding.

Because the ruling removed any requirement for businesses to put vaccine mandates in place, the bill, if passed, would only apply to businesses that have chosen to require the vaccine.

The CMS mandate only grants medical and religious exemptions, putting it at odds with HB 1001, which includes testing as an opt-out.

While presenting the bill, Lehman said this means effectively all health-care workers would not be able to use testing or proof of antibodies as an opt-out of getting vaccinated.

Some legislators gave last-minute comments on HB 1001 prior to the vote.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, said the Supreme Court decision meant private employers and state governments can make decisions about workplace vaccination requirements.

“So we’re one of the two players that currently are allowed to decide what our policy on vaccination is,” DeLaney said. “We’re about to abdicate our responsibility.”

DeLaney said the bill is an attempt to cast doubt on the vaccine and cited the state’s low ranking in a list of safest states during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeLaney also said the choice to opt out of receiving the vaccine in favor of weekly COVID-19 testing is an “I don’t want it” exemption, which puts the burden on employers to pay for testing.

Rep. John Jacob, R-Indianapolis, said allowing employers to require workers to get tested was still forcing them to undergo a “medical procedure.” He asked that the bill be amended to not allow workplaces to test employees.

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, called the COVID-19 vaccines “biochemical experimental injections” and said he is pro-vaccine but unvaccinated.

“We cannot not give our citizens an out to this,” Lucas said. “We should embrace it, it’s incredibly important.”

Following the Supreme Court decision regarding the OSHA mandate—of which his lawsuit was a part—Attorney General Todd Rokita released a statement saying he was “celebrating” but was still focused on his other lawsuits against Biden mandates.

HB 1001, which also ends the state of emergency while retaining the ability to receive federal funds, has advanced to the Indiana Senate. — Jack Sells and Taylor Wooten

***