The Ohio Senate on Nov. 20 held its first hearing on the House Bill 218, the COVID vaccine exemption mandate bill, after passing Nov. 18 in the House. Senate President Matt Huffman said this week that he plans several more hearings on the legislation, and that additional changes could be coming.
Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, offered sponsor testimony and said that “simply put, this piece of legislation expands exemptions” regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, including in regard to antibodies and reasons of conscience. It also bans “vaccine passports” from being required by public and private entities or having to show proof of vaccination. It also prevents children from being “discriminated against” due to vaccination status.
He told the committee the bill is needed now because of the workforce shortage, including for the health care industry and nursing homes, and the supply chain backlogs. The trucking industry would particularly be affected by vaccination requirements, Cutrona said, and it is essential that people not be prohibited from entering a pharmacy or grocery store because they are not vaccinated.
HB218 also has a “big lift” in including business immunity language from 133-HB606, he said, and it contains a sunset provision. This qualified lawsuit immunity for businesses for COVID-related issues is an issue championed by The Ohio Society of CPAs and other business organizations of the Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice. Most of the bill would sunset Sept. 30, 2025, while the HB606 language would sunset in June 2023.
The bill provisions do not apply to employees of children’s hospitals or those working in critical care units at other hospitals. Chair Bob Peterson, R-Sabina, said such unvaccinated employees would need to be reassigned, as a clarification.
Hannah News Service contributed to this report.