Mississippi lawmakers vote to prohibit state, local governments from imposing COVID vaccine mandate
By Anne Summerhays
Both the Mississippi House and Senate have now voted to adopt the conference report on House Bill 1509, a bill prohibiting state and local governments from imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Authored by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn (R), the bill was introduced in January and states that it is an unlawful, discriminatory practice for a state agency, public official, state institution of higher learning, public community or junior college, county, municipality or other political subdivision of the state to refuse, withhold from, or deny to a person any local or state services, goods, facilities, advantages, privileges, licensing, educational opportunities, health care access, or employment opportunities based on the person’s COVID-19 vaccination status or whether the person has an immunity passport.
The conference report housed under HB 1509 says that a health care facility is exempt from compliance with this act during any period of time that compliance with this act would result in a violation of regulations or guidance issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The House adopted the conference report on Tuesday and the Senate adopted it Wednesday. The bill will now be sent to Governor Tate Reeves to be signed into law. All indications are that Reeves will sign the bill as he has been an outspoken critic of such mandates.
A number of bills were filed at the beginning of the 2022 Legislative session that would have addressed any type of vaccine mandates or mask mandates within schools. Some of those were SB 2045, SB 2710, SB 2850, and SB 2858.
President Biden issued an Executive Order in September 2021 mandating vaccines for federal employees with exemptions available for those with religious objections. The United States Supreme Court has since blocked the President’s action.
Many elected officials in Mississippi have spoken out against the attempts to implement federal and statewide vaccine mandates.
Mississippi Governor Reeves has said previously that he would not require state employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I am a strong supporter of the COVID vaccines and commend the Trump administration’s efforts to develop it… I have urged every Mississippian to talk to their doctor and make a personal decision to protect themselves. These federal mandates, however, threaten every Mississippian’s individual liberties,” Governor Reeves said.
Reeves said that although the federal government has not followed through on a single threat, many institutions across the country have acted rashly out of fear of losing federal funds.
“They should be reminded that the state of Mississippi will not be in the business of subsidizing or supporting institutions that fail to go out of their way to respect at least these basic human rights. Every Mississippi business, university, and hospital should bend over backwards to accommodate and presume goodwill,” Reeves continued.
Senator Roger Wicker stated that he has encouraged Americans to continue getting vaccinated, but that it is wrong for the federal government to demand that individuals put a vaccine in their bodies under the threat of losing their jobs.
The state’s junior U.S. Senator, Cindy Hyde-Smith, has agreed.
“The United States is not China or some other tyrannical country. President Biden exceeded his authority in his rush to force the vaccines on the American people,” Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith said. “I believe the COVID-19 vaccines save lives, but I also trust the American people to make the best medical decisions for themselves and their families at this point in the pandemic.”
Speaker Gunn took to Twitter in January after filing the bill, saying vaccine mandates are not the answer.
“Yesterday the House passed HB1509 banning state & local gov’t entities from discriminating against anyone based on COVID-19 vaccination status & banning public & private employers from requiring employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine against their religious convictions,” Speaker Gunn said tweeted in January. “I took the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage others to do so. But COVID-19 vaccine mandates are not the answer. I am proud to have taken a stand with my House GOP colleagues to protect Mississippians’ cherished freedoms.”
You can view the conference report for HB 1509 below.
Conference Report for HB 1509 by yallpolitics on Scribd