The proposed bill would also prohibit schools, colleges and universities from imposing such mandates and denying service based on vaccination status.
A bill authored by Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn (R) would prohibit any state or local government from imposing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. As of Thursday afternoon, that bill passed out of the assigned House committee and then was approved in the chamber by a vote of 74 to 41.
HB 1509 was presented on the floor by Chairman of the House Public Health and Human Services Committee Rep. Sam Mims (R). Mims laid out that the primary concern of the bill is to ensure that “a state agency, public official, state institution of higher learning, public community or junior college, country, municipality or other political subdivision of the state to refuse, withhold form, or deny to a person any local or state services, goods, facilities, advantages, privileges, licensing, educational opportunities, health care access, or employment opportunities based on the person’s COVID-19 vaccination status or whether the person has an immunity passport.”
Mims said it will also allow for religious liberty exemptions for individuals who have those strongly held beliefs.
“An employee of any public or private employer who has a sincerely held religious objection to receiving a vaccine for COVD-19 shall not be required to receive a vaccine for COVID-19,” the bill states.
Mims said it will be up to employers to determine a way to verify the sincerity of those religious beliefs. Under the legislation, the Mississippi National Guard would be included, as it is a state agency.
The bill would allow for healthcare providers to put safety procedures in place at their discretion. Further, given the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent order regarding President Joe Biden’s COVID vaccine mandates, the Mississippi bill would allow health care providers to require vaccination among employees.
Rep. Mims said he believes in passing this bill it makes a strong statement to the people of Mississippi that the Legislature believes in your religious freedoms.
The question was raised during floor debate as to why the legislation does not include medical exemptions. Mims said those exemptions are already recognized within the Mississippi State Department of Health.
This bill was one of several put forth in the Mississippi House to prohibit COVID vaccine mandates. The state Senate also a number of bills filed this session that would address any type of vaccine mandates or mask mandates within schools. Some of those were SB 2045, SB 2710, SB 2850, and SB 2858. These bills face a Tuesday deadline to be passed out of committee. If they are not moved forward, they will die on the calendar.
However, the House passed bill does head to the Senate for consideration. It is unclear as to whether leadership in that chamber will allow this attempt at prohibiting such health mandates to moving forward.