Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

Arkansas legislature continues work on vaccine mandate exemption bills


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. –  Senator Blake Johnson’s bill to prohibit coercion of someone to take the COVID-19 vaccination was heard in the House Public Health Committee on Tuesday morning. 

His bill mainly dealt with employment status as a means of coercion. 

Randy Zook with the State Chamber of Commerce said this bill was government overreach into how businesses choose to operate.

“Imposes unreasonable mandates on private businesses and business owners across the state,” Zook said.

One of his biggest complaints of the bill was the terminology “philosophical exemption”.  He said it was not clearly defined in the bill, “Does that simply mean I disagree with the vaccine or I don’t like needles?”

Those in the audience who agreed with the bill’s premise said those things have already been defined in previous Arkansas law.

“Philosophical and religious exemptions are enshrined and codified in Arkansas State law which to my limited understanding of the Republic we live in trumps federal law,” one man said.

Representative Stephen Magie has been in the medical field for over 40 years and was concerned with how this bill could negatively affect medical facilities.  He said with freedoms, comes a certain level of personal responsibility, especially for doctors and nurses.

“Did that interfere with my freedom? The freedom I had was if I decided I didn’t want to take that flu shot, I was no longer on the staff at the hospital,” Magie explained.

Representative Mary Bentley, who was in favor of the measure, mentioned the cases the vaccine had been attributed to. She said there have been cases of it causing heart attack, myocarditis, and even death. 

“This vaccine is not 100% safe and it’s not 100% effective, if it was we would not be hearing this,” Bentley said.

She also explained there would be no need for this bill if businesses were approving legitimate religious and philosophical exemptions.

Representative Fred Allen mentioned his cancer treatments he’s been receiving and he wants to make sure someone who is giving him those treatments is vaccinated so he has a much lower chance of getting COVID-19, staff has a lower chance of catching COVID-19, and there’s a much lower chance to bring it back to family and friends.

That bill failed on a roll call vote from the committee.

Senator Kim Hammer’s bill establishing a way to opt-out of any federal mandates for those employees did pass out of committee on a voice vote and now heads to the full House for debate.

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