Bill blocking state, local vaccine mandates defeated

May 25, 2022 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Legislation that would have kept state or local governments from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry into public places or private businesses was narrowly defeated Wednesday by a state Senate Committee.

Rep. Thomas Pressly of Shreveport had pitched the House-passed bill as a compromise. The Republican lawmaker said it kept government from imposing vaccine mandates on private businesses, while allowing private business owners to impose COVID-19 vaccination requirements if they feel such steps are needed to protect employees and customers.

Supporters said the bill was a good compromise.

The defeated bill had drawn opposition from both sides of the vaccine debate. Some wanted it to go farther by prohibiting business owners from imposing proof-of-vaccine mandates. Jill Hines, of a group called Health Freedom Louisiana, said the bill allowed private business owners to discriminate against people who have religious objections to vaccines.

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Others said the state shouldn’t tell local governments whether they can impose such mandates.

“This seems to be gross overreach,” said Sen. Gary Carter, a Democrat from New Orleans.

Last August, New Orleans began requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test as a condition for entering bars, restaurants or other public venues. The mandate stayed in place through the Mardi Gras season that draws huge crowds to the city. It was lifted in late March as cases and hospitalization rates declined.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 5-4 to defer the bill, meaning it won’t advance to the full Senate.