Texas Republicans win early opposition to exempt workers from vaccination warrants

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Republicans in the Texas legislature could face an uphill battle as they attempt to pass a bill exempting most of the state’s workforce from vaccine requirements by their employers.

On the one hand, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott asked them to take up the case this week alone, following an executive order he issued on Monday. There are only six days left for the current extraordinary session.

On top of that, the legislation has been denounced both by Democrats, who see the rules as necessary for public health reasons, and by some Republicans, who disagree with government interference in business decisions.

In another sign of trouble, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, an influential and well-funded tort reform group whose PAC tends to back the Tories, spoke out on Wednesday against one of the bills Abbott commissioned, the House Bill 155, which the State of Texas House Committee considered on Wednesday.

The bill would require employers to allow employees to be exempted from a vaccine requirement based on their acquired immunity after contracting COVID-19; a medical condition; or “reasons of conscience, including religious belief”.

The prosecution reform group said in a statement that it places employers in an “untenable position” and would expose them to “substantial liability” as this conflicts with federal guidelines from the Biden administration requiring that large companies prescribe vaccines. The group is also concerned about a provision that allows employees to sue employers who violate the law and recover court costs.

“TLR has cautioned against, and often opposed, new causes of action, particularly those that expose Texas job creators to broad liability,” the group wrote in its statement.

Glenn Hamer, president of the Texas Association of Business, gave similar testimony at Wednesday’s hearing.

“Our big concern is the cause of action,” Hamer said. “This, in our opinion, must change.”

Abbott took Texas by surprise with its executive order, released Monday after 5 p.m. Just two months ago, the governor said in an executive order he would ban local and state authorities from requiring vaccines, but not interfere in private business decisions.

In Wednesday’s hearing, the sponsor of the bill, sTate Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, who is a doctor, said that even though he is vaccinated he believes it is a personal decision.

“Unfortunately, when it comes to the COVID pandemic, we have strayed, I think, from this fundamental medical principle of patient autonomy, and we are kind of trampling on it,” Oliverson said. “Americans in general don’t like to be coerced into being told what to do, especially when they think it violates or infringes on their specific rights as an individual.”

Neither Oliverson nor the committee chair, Rep. Chris Paddie, expected the panel to rush the legislation through.

“Maybe we’ll get there, maybe we won’t, but it’s not going to override – no pun intended – any sense of political expediency here to try to satisfy the policy versus to the right policy, ”Paddie said.

The panel had not yet proceeded to a vote on Thursday evening.

The Texas Senate State Affairs Committee will consider a similar but more sweeping bill on Thursday that would also ban government entities, school districts, and public and private institutions of higher education from requiring COVID-19 vaccines – in addition to forcing private employers to accept medical treatment and conscientious exemptions.

Among those who testified in favor of the bill was Jennifer Allmon, executive director of the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops. Allmon said the group liked the use of the term “conscience” because it is broader than “religious” and reflects the many factors that go into deciding to get the vaccine.

“We believe conscience is moral judgment and reason in your heart and mind,” she said. “When we say ‘conscience’ we always say ‘well-formed conscience’.”

Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, who is a lawyer and also a franchise owner of Orangetheory Fitness clubs in the Rio Grande Valley, said his main concern was the effect of the bill on small businesses.

“Right now all businesses – and you know my experience with small businesses – are struggling,” Lucio III said. “We don’t need to take anything out of the toolbox to run their business in order to give them an opportunity to be successful and survive this very difficult time. “

Carmen Tilton, vice president of public policy at the Texas Assisted Living Association, said her group also opposed the bill, for the same reason.

“Our members see the possibility of having mandatory vaccination policies as a private business decision, which is based on the desires of the residents and families served, the preferences of staff members and the relative costs and benefits,” he said. she said, adding that although members are divided on the problem, immunization “is a vital tool for our industry, which is just starting to rebound.”

Other health care groups, including the Texas Health Care Association and the Texas Hospital Association, have also voiced their opposition.

Representative Donna Howard, D-Austin, a former critical care nurse, said she believes it is important for lawmakers to be guided by scientific experts on this issue.

“I don’t think any of us here, despite our degrees, despite even having a medical degree, have the capacity to really put it all together as lawmakers,” Howard said. “It’s not, I don’t think it’s our goal, to make medical decisions here. We have to look to those who are in a position to know what all the research is saying. “

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