The Alabama House of Representatives on Monday gave approval to legislation that would prevent businesses and schools from denying service to persons who have not had a COVID-19 vaccination. Senate Bill 267 was sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and was carried on the floor of the House by House Health Committee Chairman Paul Lee, R-Dothan.
The state Senate later concurred with the legislation and sent it on to Gov. Kay Ivey for her consideration.
SB267 would leave in place any requirements for vaccinations that were already in place on Jan. 1, 2021, but any new requirements for vaccinations — for COVID-19 or for other conditions — would be banned. The House Health Committee had prepared a complicated substitute bill that would have exempted health care facilities, including nursing homes, from this statute.
Lee asked that the House Health Committee substitute bill be rejected and to go back to the engrossed version that came from the Senate and then the addition of a couple of agreed on amendments. The House acceded to his requests.
“The amendments make it clear that any vaccine required before January 2021 will remain required,” Lee said.
State Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, said: “People have the right to informed consent and a right not to be tracked by a vaccine passport.”
“This prevents state or local governments from denying service to persons who have not been vaccinated,” Lee said.
State Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, said: “My only concern is those people who are willing to put other people’s lives in danger.”
Howard said that businesses should have the right to deny entry to people who are not wearing a mask and are not vaccinated.
“This has nothing to do with masks,” Lee said. It does not ban mask requirements or COVID testing requirements.
Howard himself and his family contracted COVID-19.
“I know how COVID got brought to my house,” Howard said. “I allowed my son to play basketball. I have underlying health conditions. My daughter has sickle cell.”
Howard said that the Legislature has plenty of laws to protect the health and safety of the public.
“We can’t drive down the road at 100 miles per hour,” Howard said. “We have so many laws on the books to protect the public. Why can we not protect people from COVID?”
Howard said: “People are still dying from COVID. Why can we not trust the science?”
“Walking into a business without a mask if you have not been vaccinated is the same as assault,” Howard said. “I am not in favor of the long arm of the law. I am not, but we need to be able to things to protect the public.”
“Those business owners have a right to put up a sign saying to wear a mask if they want to,” Lee said. “That is their business. They are the ones paying the mortgage.”
Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brooks, said: “I think the people of Alabama, we need this bill. It is something that is important.”
“It is not right to require the people of Alabama to have been vaccinated to enter a business or to go to a football game,” Faulkner said.
Some vaccination proponents have suggested that attendees at Alabama and Auburn football games be required to show the grey CDC vaccination record that people are given when they get their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, asked: “When did it become your right to pass on your disease?”
“This selfish attitude is going to eventually kill this country,” Moore added. “It is morally wrong not to be vaccinated and go out into a crowd.”
“In the United States today, only a third of Americans have been vaccinated,” Moore said.
One amendment to the bill allows schools to continue to require the vaccines that were required before Jan 1. Persons with a health condition or a religious belief against those vaccines can still deny taking those vaccinations. “This is how it has been for 60 years,” Lee explained.
“A college or university cannot require the COVID vaccination of students,” Lee said. “Businesses cannot require that customers be vaccinated.”
Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, said: “I was lucky not to get COVID, but I have lost a lot of people my age, classmates.”
Lee said: “The last thing we want to do is put mandates on businesses. This does not address testing.”
Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, asked: “This is only dealing with the immunizations of an individual?”
Lee replied, “yes,” and said that employers may still require that employees get the vaccination.
“This has nothing to do with the employer-employee relationship,” Lee said.
SB267 passed the House on a 76 to 16 vote. The Senate voted to concur with the House changes in a 29 to 0 vote. The legislation is now on the governor’s desk. Monday was the 30th and final day of the 2021 Legislative Session.