The Utah House of Representatives, on Monday, passed HB0308 which bars all branches of the state’s government from requiring employees to be required to be vaccinated for the coronavirus.
According to the bill’s language, this would also include “participation in activity” and attendance in events that are “hosted or sponsored” by governmental entities.
Among those affected are school district employees, in addition to those who work for county, city and town governments. Private businesses will not be impacted by this bill and therefore may choose to require employees to be inoculated prior to returning to work.
House legislators passed the bill in a 66-2 vote, with Representatives Merrill Nelson (R-Grantsville) and Travis Seegmiller (R-St. George) casting the only no votes.
Nelson said he voted in response to what he viewed as a “meaningless message bill.”
His contention was, if the bill passed, the state government was sending mixed signals that could be interpreted as conflicting with Gov. Spencer Cox’s encouragement of people to get vaccinated.
“We have the other branch of the government, the legislative, sending the message that vaccination is not important,” Nelson said.
While Nelson does not support mandatory vaccinations, he had issues with the language of the bill and the prohibitions it would inflict.
Another section of the bill stated that “a governmental entity may not require, directly or indirectly, that an individual receive an emergency COVID-19 vaccine.”
Nelson worries this may discourage many from promoting vaccinations for their employees.
Requiring employees to get a vaccine before returning to work has been a hot-button topic, especially with a significant number of Utahns hesitant to receive the shot. In a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll, conducted in mid-February, 27% of the participants said they were either taking a “wait and see” approach, planned to never receive the vaccine or were unsure.
60% of the respondents said they either have already been vaccinated or wanted one “as soon as possible.”
Gov. Spencer Cox, who ran on refusing to require vaccinations, believes the state is in good shape to avoid passing such a measure. He has expressed confidence in Utah’s ability to distribute enough residents.
The bill is now in the Senate, where it will be considered further in the rules committee.