Measure targets powers that Gov. Cooper has never sought to exercise
Backed by Republicans, a bill that would prohibit the Governor from mandating vaccination through executive orders passed the state House Monday. The bill (HB 572) also adds a highly specific provision to the statutes governing the rule-making process of government agencies — prohibiting agencies from penalizing those who refuse to be vaccinated when the agency requires vaccination as a condition of license receipt, renewal or reinstatement.
“This bill prevents the Governor or any of his agencies from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations through executive action,” said Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, one of the primary sponsors of the bill, said in a statement. “This decision should be up to each individual, not the Governor.”
The bill cleared the House 74-39 Monday, welcomed by dozens of supporters of the bill who applauded at its passage, most without any face covering.
As Policy Watch previously reported, some Democrats voiced their opposition to the bill at a committee hearing. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, said the executive branch has a role in emergencies such as widespread deadly diseases.
Gov. Roy Cooper has encouraged North Carolinians to seek vaccines. In an ad urging North Carolinians to claim their spots for available shots, Cooper was joined by leadership from both parties — Republican House and Senate leaders Tim Moore and Phil Berger, as well as their Democratic counterparts Robert Reives and Dan Blue, all stressing the importance of vaccination to protect public health.
Cooper set a goal of achieving a vaccination rate of two-thirds of all adults before lifting the mask mandate, according to a press release. However, he has not issued any mandates ordering any groups to be vaccinated.
Rep. Larry Pittman, a Cabarrus Republican who co-sponsored the legislation, proposed an amendment adding a section granting businesses immunity from civil lawsuits if they treat employees and customers equally regardless of whether they’ve received a vaccine approved by the FDA for emergency use.
Yet the amendment was ruled out of order and failed to be adopted.
“The vaccines need to be fully tested in experiment,” Ken Sweet, a supporter of the bill said. “It hasn’t been tested and they’ve also been eliminating all the liabilities on it.” He said he is not against vaccines in general but has not gotten any of the COVID vaccines.
The bill made headway on the same day that the FDA authorized the Pfizer-bioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, after testing its safety on 2,260 participants, including 1,131 who received the vaccine and a 1,129 control group.