The Arkansas Senate has approved a bill that would compel workers who are subject to a COVID-19 vaccination obligation from their employers to go through an exemption procedure.
Voting Took Place During a Special Session
The Arkansas Legislature, which is primarily Republican, was convening last week to redesign the state’s four congressional districts, a process that has elicited a slew of proposals but no agreement on how to go about it so far. Furthermore, despite parliamentary leaders’ intention to keep the agenda restricted to congressional redistricting, there is also doubt whether there will be an attempt to take up other topics, per The Associated Press.
Legislative leaders said they want to keep the emphasis on redistricting in Congress. They might also discuss legislation related to the COVID-19 public health emergency and disbursement of COVID-19 relief funds, according to the proclamation they issued inviting legislators back to the Capitol.
Senator Jimmy Hickey, the Senate President, said the phrase was added if lawmakers wanted to discuss federal virus relief funding, but the Legislature only needs to focus on redistricting. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on Tuesday that he believes redistricting will have to wait until the legislature reconvenes.
Nonetheless, proposals have been introduced that would require companies to require their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. One plan would make it illegal for employers to require employees to reveal whether they’ve been vaccinated. In contrast, another would make it illegal for the state to withhold unemployment benefits to someone dismissed for refusing to get vaccinated.
Legislation Would Immediately Take Effect, But Until When?
In a recently publish article in The Sun, Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, introduced legislation that states that any employer that requires the vaccination must also provide an exemption procedure that involves testing or confirmation of antibodies. If passed, the mandate would expire on July 31, 2023, unless lawmakers extend it.
Republican legislators have submitted a slew of measures attacking vaccination requirements for the special session that began last week. The ideas are in reaction to President Joe Biden’s directive requiring employees at companies with at least 100 employees to be vaccinated or tested regularly.
The debate over vaccination mandates comes as coronavirus incidence in Arkansas continues to decline. According to Johns Hopkins University, Arkansas recorded 529.7 new cases per 100,000 people during the last two weeks, putting it in 28th place in the US for new cases per capita.