Ohio House speaker shuts down planned hearing on vaccine mandates

House Bill 435 would allow COVID-19 vaccination exemptions with proof of a negative medical reaction and religious reasons.

Updated: October 15, 2021 - 11:14pm

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Ohio Speaker of the House Bob Cupp has left little doubt about the future of bills that would give most Ohio workers and students the ability to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine by ordering a committee chair to cancel an upcoming meeting.

House Bill 435 failed to get a full vote Wednesday in the House for the second time in two weeks, with Cupp, R-Lima, saying the House was moving on to different things. He reiterated that message Thursday in a letter to Health Committee Chair Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, shutting down a seventh hearing on House Bill 248, the Vaccine Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act, a separate bill dealing with the same subjects.

“You are hereby directed to immediately cancel the Health Committee currently scheduled for October 19, 2021. Upon receipt of this letter, please notify the members of the committee of the cancellation,” Cupp wrote.

House Bill 435 would allow COVID-19 vaccination 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 test of customers and would 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.

That bill had been scheduled twice for votes on the House floor but was referred to another committee last week and pulled off the House agenda Wednesday.

“After countless hours of hearings and deliberation on this topic, there is still no consensus on how or whether to move forward,” Cupp said Wednesday in a statement. "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.”

HB 248 drew national attention at a hearing in June when Cleveland-area doctor Sherri Tenpenny and Joanna Overholt, who said she was a nurse practitioner, each said the COVID-19 vaccine leads to magnetism and causes metal objects to stick to the body of a person after they received the vaccine.

The bill would not allow any employer or school to require any vaccine and bans discriminatory treatment against those refusing to be vaccinated, such as requiring masks to be worn.

The bill is opposed by business groups around the state, including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, along with hospital groups, doctors and nurses. It would prevent employees from being fired for refusing to be vaccinated.

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