PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem’s proposed exemptions for workers to get out of COVID-19 vaccinations took another step ahead.

The House State Affairs Committee endorsed the package Wednesday night.

Katie Hruska, the governor’s deputy legal counsel, said SB 211 protects employees’ rights to claim an exemption for a medical or religious reason or because of a previous COVID-19 infection. “It should be a choice, and the bill protects that choice,” Hruska said. 

The proposed law would expire on June 30, 2023. Antibody testing is required every six months for those claiming the infection exemption.

Chad Bishop of Sioux Falls testified in favor. Citing recent research, he asked for an amendment that would replace the 180-day requirement with 600 days and criticized the bill’s lack of public funding for the testing.  

Justin Bell, representing South Dakota State Medical Association, opposed the exemptions. 

The bill will be up for House debate Monday. The Senate has approved it 31-4. 

Representative Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, wanted to remove the ‘undue hardship’ portion of the bill in section 2. But Hruska said it was an unfriendly amendment.  

“I just don’t think it applies here,” Gosch countered. “With that language in there, the bill means nothing.” His amendment failed on a voice vote. 

The legislation came out 7-5. Voting no were representatives Kevin Jensen, R-Canton; Marli Wiese, R-Madison; Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade; Jamie Smith, D-Sioux Falls; and Gosch.

Earlier in the day, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee rejected Gosch’s personal-choice exemption 7-0.