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Ohio House to vote on ban on 'vaccine passports' and COVID vaccine mandates for schools, employers

 The House Commerce and Labor Committee meets to consider House Bill 218 on Thursday, November 18, 2021.
The House Commerce and Labor Committee meets to consider House Bill 218 on Thursday, November 18, 2021.

House members are set to vote on a bill that would ban schools and employers from requiring the two COVID vaccines that don’t have full FDA approval. The bill, suddenly changed and voted out of committee this morning, also creates very broad COVID vaccine exemptions and bans requiring proof of vaccine status or so-called "vaccine passports" by public and private entities.

The bill originally would exempt bars from statewide curfews. But that language was erased and new vaccine exemptions language was added from a bill that had twice stalled before a vote because of overwhelming opposition from business and health care groups.

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) had said last month that the House was "moving on" from vaccine mandate bills.

The bill came to the House floor after the Commerce and Labor Committee passed it Thursday morning on a party line vote 8-5.

Democrats including Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland) were furious.

"The original bill, that's the same bill number of a bill that had nothing to do with this language. It's a completely different language, so that's pulling a fast one," Boyd said. "There's no other way to describe that. That's simply pulling a fast one."

Rep. Al Cutrona (R-sponsored the original bill, and says the change has nothing to do with reports that some of his colleagues were hoping to trade their votes for the Congressional map for movement on a vaccine mandate bill.

"This has nothing to do with the other - that's comparing apples and oranges," Cutrona said. "We have had the votes in favor of the maps. This is just great timing to move across legislation before the end of the year. This is what our districts want. This is what we are pushing forward on."

Opposition to the vaccine exemptions bill that was brought up last month was thunderous, and came from more than 100 groups allied as the Ohio Vaccine Coalition. It includes major health systems, the Ohio Hospital Association, the Ohio Manufacturers Association and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

Republican former Congressman Steve Stivers, now the Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, said this was “an act of legislative terrorism to force this bill to the floor.”

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.