COVID vaccine coercion bill heads back to Senate committee

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 30, 2021 at 11:20 PM CDT
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - A bill that would prohibit coercion as a means for someone to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or immunization is set to be heard Friday by a Senate committee after senators Thursday referred the bill back to committee.

Senators voted to re-refer SB732, sponsored by Sen. Blake Johnson (R-Corning), back to the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee after fierce debate Thursday.

Under the bill, a person shall not coerce another person to receive the vaccine or immunization if there is a risk to the person or if it conflicts with the person’s religious or philosophical beliefs.

The bill would also allow an individual to seek lost wages from an employer if they are coerced.

“If an employer does not give consideration for the conditions described in subdivision (b) (1) and (b) (2) of this section and takes punitive action against an employee who requested the consideration, the employee may seek lost wages,” the bill noted. “An employee who seeks lost wages under this section shall be reimbursed comparable to unemployment benefits in this state under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.”

There was debate over that issue, with some senators, including President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey Jr. (R-Texarkana), saying he received word Thursday that federal rescue funding could not be used for the unemployment benefits and that a vote in favor would overturn legislative precedent.

However, some senators including Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) said he believed the COVID-19 pandemic had overturned a lot in the state in the past nearly two years, impacting business, government, and the judicial system.

The committee is scheduled to meet at 8:30 a.m. Friday at the state Capitol in Little Rock.

House committee approves redistricting bill amendment

The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee voted Thursday to approve an amendment for a redistricting bill.

The bill, HB 1971, is sponsored by Rep. Nelda Speaks (R-Mountain Home).

The amendment would move Madison County into the 3rd District, while moving a portion of Pulaski County into the 4th District.

The committee will meet Friday to further discuss the bill.

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