Todd Huston

House Speaker Todd Huston speaks with reporters on Jan. 6 in Indianapolis following the first week of the 2022 legislative session.

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill limiting an employer’s ability to mandate vaccines for their employees moved through the Indiana House on Thursday just moments before the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a federal government rule requiring large employers to vaccinate employees.

House Bill 1001, authored by Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, would limit the ability of employers to mandate vaccines voluntarily. Business leaders testified against the bill in committee, saying they wanted to choose for themselves whether or not to require vaccinations for employees.

The Supreme Court allowed the federal government COVID-19 vaccination requirement for health care settings receiving Medicaid and Medicare funding to stand. That requirement overrules Indiana’s law, meaning hospitals and long-term care facilities must mandate vaccines.

Because of the close timing of the two motions, House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, didn’t have more information on how Indiana would respond.

“Somebody just old me that the (large employers) one was struck down and the (health care workers) one was upheld,” Huston said. “To be honest, that’s as much as I know.”

The bill, a priority for House leadership, heard testimony from several health care workers who parted with their employers after refusing to get vaccinated. The Indiana Hospital Association estimates those former employees composed just 1% of the overall workforce.

“For hospitals and nursing home care facilities to be able to operate — they should have the opportunity to require vaccine mandates,” House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, said. “If we want to get out of the pandemic, folks need to be vaccinated, and if businesses want to stay in business, they have to be able to rely on their employees, and the best way for them to do that is be vaccinated.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb inadvertently started the discussion behind HB 1001 when he asked the general assembly to make three provisions from his emergency order permanent in order to stop the state of emergency. Those three provisions include enhanced federal funding for Medicaid and food assistance as well as the emergency authorization for COVID-19 vaccines.

The bill now moves to third reading before appearing in the Senate, where Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray expressed concerns about combining vaccine mandate language with Holcomb’s agenda.

The Senate has their own version of the bill that only includes Holcomb’s three provisions, as well as an extension of temporary health care licensing measures.

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