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Tyranny? Missouri Chamber pushes back in vaccination policy debate

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Let business decide

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry continued to push back against government overreach this week as lawmakers worked to advance legislation to limit workplace vaccination policies.

In the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, dozens of bills have been filed in Missouri that seek to strip employers of the right to require vaccination in their workplaces or place new restrictions on employer vaccination policies.

The various bills under consideration in Jefferson City contain a spectrum of ideas. On one end, some lawmakers have proposed forbidding vaccine requirements and allowing businesses to be sued if they ask about vaccination status.

Meanwhile, other lawmakers are pushing a less radical approach — allowing businesses to continue requiring vaccinations as long as they allow individual employees to opt out for religious reasons.

This week, a Missouri Senate committee heard testimony on four bills that span the spectrum. The Missouri House of Representatives also gave first round approval to two more limited bills focusing on employee accommodations and the ability to opt out of vaccination.

In many cases, the discussions have come with inflammatory rhetoric. During a February 16 Senate hearing, some lawmakers equated private business vaccine requirements to tyranny and dictatorships.

“Generally we don’t like to put restrictions on business any more than absolutely necessary, but also again I’ll remind you — tyranny can come from both the private and the public sector,” said Sen. Bill Eigel, a Republican from Weldon Spring.

The Missouri Chamber continued to push back against these efforts. In recent weeks, 300 employers and business leaders co-signed a letter asking lawmakers to stay out of workplace vaccination policies. Business leaders have also sent hundreds of emails to legislators.

“At the Missouri Chamber we are opposed to any governmental mandates on businesses. We were opposed to President Biden’s federal mandate for employers with 100 or more employees requiring vaccines, and likewise we are opposed to any of these state-level mandates to take the rights of businesses away to make those decisions. I think our stance on this is pretty simple — let business decide,” said Ross Lien, Missouri Chamber director of legislative affairs, during a Senate hearing. “I think this is a slippery slope. Today we are talking about vaccine policies in the workplace. But if we pass these bills it’s going to make it easier the next time government seeks to intervene and intrude on businesses’ rights.”

For more information, contact Missouri Chamber Vice President of Governmental Affairs Kara Corches at kcorches@mochamber.com or 573-634-3511.

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