Two anti-vaccine mandate bills were given favorable reports Monday in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund committee meeting before a packed room filled with supporters of the legislation.
Senate bills 9 and 15 are a part of a larger slate of anti-vaccine mandate bills filed in the Statehouse during the previous week. All bills not related to redistricting filed in either chamber require a two-thirds majority for final passage.
SB9, sponsored by State Sen. Chris Elliot, R-Fairhope, would prohibit employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccines if an employee objects to taking the vaccine because of “a religious belief or because of medical reasons, including recovery from COVID-19,” according to the bill.
It would also require the Attorney General’s Office to publish guidelines navigating the new law.
“What we’re trying to do with Senate Bill 9 is look at the exemptions that currently exist under current statute and further clarify those to an extent,” Elliot said before the committee Monday. “So that our folks that object to taking this vaccine for religious reasons, or if they have a medical reason, to as simply as possible state that objection, and to be exempt from taking that vaccine without fear of termination.”
A substitute was presented to the committee by Elliot, which included an exemption form that, if properly filled out, would be a binding exemption mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine.
A doctor’s note, or excuse, would not be required for completion of the exemption, according to Elliot.
Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, questioned the effectiveness of not requiring a doctor’s note or excuse for the exemption letter.
“So you’re just basically taking somebody’s word–, you might as well not have an excuse,” Coleman-Madison said, later asking if a person who denies the vaccine on religious grounds did so with previous vaccines.
“I don’t believe this Legislature should be, or business should be in the business of determining an individual’s faith,” Elliot said while many in the audience applauded.
“We’re not talking about faith, we’re talking about whether you practice what you preach,” Coleman-Madison said. “I’m saying if this is a true religious belief, and something that you practice, then that person would have been opposed to any vaccination they would have taken in the past.”
Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Montgomery, said the bill forced businesses to perpetuate the “Big-lie” concerning COVID-19 vaccines and vowed to fight it as it reaches the Senate floor.
“I think that you’re setting people up for failure here,” Singleton said. “For society to continue to have people die, based on a virus that we can go on and get rid of if we would just totally cooperate.”
The committee eventually voted 12-2 in favor of a favorable report for SB9.
Senate Bill 15, sponsored by State Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, authorizes the attorney general to seek civil actions against businesses or institutions of educations that ask for an individual’s vaccination status.
Sen. Tom Butler, R-Madison, offered an amendment to require parental approval for minors before they can receive a vaccine, which was adopted, along with a second amendment limiting SB15 to COVID-19 vaccines, and won’t apply to “all the standard vaccines we have,” according to Butler.
SB15 likewise received a favorable report.
Both bills are scheduled to be brought before the Senate Tuesday during their session.