PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Giving most workers the right to just say no to COVID-19 vaccinations is no longer under consideration by the South Dakota Legislature.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 7-0 Wednesday morning to kill the proposal from Representative Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham.
“It can’t be a term of employment, period,” Gosch said about what HB 1258 would do.
South Dakota National Guard members and employees of health care facilities that receive federal Medicaid payments wouldn’t have been allowed to use the exemption.
Gosch, who’s speaker of the House, was able to get his bill through that chamber 37-30.
South Dakota Retailers Association was among the groups opposed. Among the supporters was Kathleen Putnam of Colton, who said she’s helped more than 2,000 people write appeals for religious exemptions.
“They’ve been asked to put something in their body they don’t want,” Putnam said.
The Senate previously approved 31-4 a more-limited exemptions bill sought by Governor Kristi Noem. Her proposal, SB 211, would allow people to apply in writing for medical, religious and natural-immunity exemptions. The House State Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on it this afternoon.
Senator Jim Bolin, R-Canton, said there needs to be justification for a claim that can be evaluated by someone else. Senator Art Rusch, R-Vermillion, said he wants to know that the business he visits has done what it can to protect him. Senator Red Dawn Foster, D-Pine Ridge, said she was sympathetic but respected the “rights and freedoms” of small business owners who are immuno-compromised. Senator Erin Tobin, R-Winner, said she was comfortable with the governor’s bill but Gosch’s version doesn’t recognize employer rights.
“COVID-19 is the first political disease of my lifetime and I hope I never see another one,” Senator V.J. Smith, R-Brookings, said.