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Chamber urges Missouri lawmakers to oppose business vaccination proposals

by Cameron Gerber | May 11, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Daniel Mehan

With this year's legislative session in its final days, the state's largest business association is calling on lawmakers to reject legislation it said would take away employers' rights in Missouri.

Daniel Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, sent a letter to legislators this week urging them to vote down any legislation that would forbid businesses from requiring vaccination.

While the chamber has opposed federal attempts to enact COVID-19 vaccine mandates for business, it has encouraged businesses to enact their own policies and for individuals to get vaccinated. Though federal regulations have been halted in court, Mehan said the pendulum had swung too far in the opposite direction with a flood of bills that would eliminate the option for businesses to decide whether to require vaccination for their employees.

"In these final days of session, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is calling on you to stand up against government overreach," Mehan wrote. "It was wrong when the federal government attempted to dictate employer vaccination policies -- and it would be just as wrong for state lawmakers to follow the Biden administration down this path of interfering with employer rights. This week, we expect to see attempts to revoke the long-held employer ability to make decisions about workplace vaccination."

Mehan called the attempts "anti-business" and said they sided with the interests of trial attorneys seeking to capitalize on the flood of lawsuits that would likely follow if the bills were to pass.

The chamber has been vocal in its opposition to these bills throughout session, sending a similar letter to the governor and lawmakers with hundreds of businesses and individuals signed onto it.

"No matter the issue, when government attempts to reach into business affairs, our position is simple and consistent -- let business decide," Mehan said in his latest plea.

One such measure has already made it across the legislative finish line and awaits Gov. Mike Parson's consideration: HB 2090, sponsored by Jefferson City Republican Rep. Dave Griffith, began as a bill that would change the pay schedules for state employees, allowing them to be paid on the same day every two weeks rather than on the 15th and last working day of the month as they are now. The bill ballooned to include a number of additional provisions, including one that prohibited COVID-19 vaccination requirements for state employees, and was passed by lawmakers last week.

Griffith noted there were dozens of bills on vaccine mandates floating around the General Assembly at various stages of the process, and the version attached to his was the first to make it to the governor's desk.

"It's important that we take care of our state workers any way that we can," Griffith previously said.

Other pieces sponsored by Republican lawmakers have made some progress since session began. SB 702, an amalgamation of Senate bills, would require businesses to allow exemptions to vaccine requirements for "religious, moral, ethical, or philosophical beliefs or medical reasons" and prohibit the use of testing as an alternative. It also prohibits child care centers, college and universities, K-12 schools and public transportation systems from requiring vaccination for attendance or use.

That bill was placed on the Senate perfection calendar Tuesday morning, meaning it has numerous steps to go as session draws to a close.

In the House, meanwhile, several bills that would prohibit vaccination requirements for businesses to provide services and transportation. Other pieces would create more exemptions and require natural immunity to be held equivalent with immunity through vaccination.

In all, more than 20 bills regarding vaccination in one way or another were introduced in the House this session.

A majority of those bills received hearings in the first two months of session and have not progressed further, while a handful have been placed in the cue for perfection by the House over the past few weeks.

Last month, the House passed HB 1692, which would create employer liability for injuries sustained as a result of a required vaccination, though that bill has yet to make any progress in the upper chamber as of Tuesday afternoon. Rep. Mitch Boggs, the LaRussell Republican who sponsored HB 1692, said the bill allowed employers to make decisions themselves while still offering protection for employees.

"This bill was thought through all summer with constituent concerns, and I'm trying to find a way to protect the employer and the employee," Boggs said in committee. "This is the only way to ad some teeth but yet protect the employer to make the decisions that they need to make."

A bill that would allow public employees exemptions from vaccine requirements and another that would require accommodations for those opting out of a vaccine mandate -- HBs 1686 and 2358 -- are awaiting passage through Senate committees.

As legislation passes back and forth from one chamber to the other, however, priorities are tacked onto other bills as amendments, giving these proposals the chance to make it across the finish line as part of a larger legislative package.

This year's legislative session ends Friday.

Click the links below to read the full bill:

• HB 2090: Allows state employees to be paid biweekly

Sponsor: Rep. Dave Griffith

• SB 702: Creates new provisions relating to COVID-19 vaccination requirements

Sponsor: Sen. Karla Eslinger

• HB 1692: Creates provisions relating to employer liability for injuries from required immunizations

Sponsor: Rep. Mitch Boggs

• HB 1686: Creates provisions relating to the right to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine and medical treatment

Sponsor: Rep. Bill Hardwick

• HB 2358: Modifies provisions relating to vaccine discrimination, employee misconduct, and workers’ compensation

Sponsor: Rep. David Evans


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