(The Center Square) – An Ohio bill that would stop public and private employers, schools and universities from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination was pulled from the House agenda Wednesday shortly before the session began.
House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said there still was no consensus among the GOP caucus and hearings on House Bill 435 would be paused.
“This is an important and personal issue for all Ohioans and those who represent them. Just as there are widely differing views among Ohioans on this issue, it’s certainly not a surprise that there are varying perspectives among their legislative representatives as well," Cupp said in a statement. "It is important to have consensus within our caucus on how best to move forward.
“After countless hours of hearings and deliberation on this topic, there is still no consensus on how or whether to move forward. Consequently, the House at this time will pause additional hearings on this matter. We are continuing our work on other legislative matters that are important to Ohio and its people.”
Wednesday was the second time the bill, which drew national attention for claims made by vaccine opponents, was on the agenda only to be moved or withdrawn before a vote. The House sent it back to the House Rules and Reference Committee in late September, and the bill eventually ended up in front of the Labor and Commerce Committee for two days of formal hearings.
The bill allows people vaccine exemptions with proof of a negative medical reaction, religious reasons or for reasons of conscience. It covers private- and public-sector employees, as well as students at public and private schools, colleges and universities.
It still would allow a private business to require proof of vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test of customers and does not apply to those working at a children’s hospital, in a critical care or intensive care unit, those covered by a collective bargaining agreement or employees hired after the effective date.
If passed by both House and Senate and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, it wouldn’t take effect for three months after his signature.
“This bill balances personal medical freedom and protecting the health and safety of Ohioans,” Rep. Rick Carfagna, R-Genoa Township, said. “It empowers Ohioans by ensuring the availability of COVID-19 vaccine mandate exemptions without compromising the ability to protect the public health.”
The Ohio State University, several other private and state colleges and universities, many hospitals and other employers across the state have required COVID-19 vaccines or proof of negative tests of students and employees.