Lawmakers consider bills banning mandated Covid vaccines, blocking church closures for public health

MADISON, Wis. — Lawmakers on Wisconsin’s Assembly Committee on Constitution and Ethics held an eight-hour public hearing on Wednesday where dozens of people testified against bills that would block governments and employers from mandating Covid-19 vaccines.

The measures were part of a larger Covid-19 relief legislation package vetoed by Governor Tony Evers last month, and later introduced as separate bills. Several state health organizations have registered their opposition to the bill that would block employers from requiring employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine, with Pro-Life Wisconsin and Vaccine Choice Wisconsin registering in support. Dozens of individuals opposing the science of vaccines testified Thursday, frequently asking state lawmakers to expand the bill to include all vaccines.

Currently, Wisconsin law allows employers to require employees to take vaccines, with narrowly-defined restrictions for medical or religious objections. However, a member of legislative counsel noted on Thursday that the emergency use approval status of the current Covid-19 vaccines makes an employer’s legal footing “tenuous”. Some employers have already started mandating it, they noted, but are taking a legal risk by doing so.

Another bill would also expand the law to include local governments and the state from requiring vaccines. One Republican lawmaker, Rep. Dave Murphy, noted that voting against employer’s rights was unusual for the GOP.

“The conundrum is, in the past I’ve supported employers’ rights to control their workplace in many situations. And now in this situation, do I vote against?” he noted, adding that employers require things like urine samples to test for drugs.

“This isn’t someone doing something that’s illegal; they’re simply making a health decision that they don’t want this vaccination,” bill author Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt responded.

It’s unclear whether the bills would receive the Governor’s signature if they made it past committee and the Assembly and Senate. In February, Gov. Evers told News 3 Now that it was measures limiting what public health could do that prompted him to veto the Covid-19 relief legislation that lawmakers amended after Evers had struck a deal with the Senate. Other bills before the committee on Thursday include a measures to stop public health from closing churches for public health reasons, as well as a resolutions calling for states to convene a convention to take up Constitutional amendments.