Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson allows bill requiring vaccine mandate opt-outs to become law

The governor did not sign the bill, signaling that he may not approve of the legislation

Updated: October 14, 2021 - 4:30pm

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Arkansas GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Arkansas) is allowed a new law to go into effect that will allow employees in the state to opt-out of vaccine mandates by proving that they have acquired immunity to the novel coronavirus, or by submitting a negative COVID-19 test.

The bill, which the governor did not sign, became law Wednesday following an Arkansas provision that allows bills waiting more than five days for the governor's signature to become law. Governors sometimes use this provision to signal their disapproval of a certain bill.

"I am opposed to the current mandate by the Biden administration, but the solution is not to place additional mandates on employers at the state government level," Hutchinson said. "Employers need the freedom to protect their employees and their customers, and government should not interfere with that freedom through mandates."

The Arkansas bill was written to combat President Biden's federal vaccine mandate. It requires employers who impose vaccine mandates – which some are required to do by federal law – to create a process for exemption requests.

Though Hutchinson says he opposes Biden's federal vaccine mandate, he remains concerned with his state's relatively low vaccination rate.

"The debate on these bills has been harmful to our goal of increasing vaccination rates in Arkansas," the governor told the press.

In red states including Wyoming, Kansas and South Dakota, calls for special legislative sessions have gone out in order to draft legislation to counter Biden's vaccine mandate. In Texas, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order barring companies and other entities from requiring vaccine mandates.

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