PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — National statistics weren’t enough to get a conscience exemption that South Dakota employees could use to avoid being forced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The state House of Representatives on Thursday voted 39-30 against the proposal from Republican Rep. Jon Hansen.

HB-1235 would have allowed any person who claimed the exemption to sue for three-fold damages if still forced to receive the vaccine.

A similar bill last year made it through the House but failed in a Senate committee.

Hansen claimed thousands of people in the U.S. died after taking the vaccine and said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants to issue a new COVID vaccine annually to target variants.

“That decision should not be forced upon your constituents by the government or corporations,” Hansen said. He added, “The point is, this vaccine is not without risk.”

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Republican Rep. Aaron Aylward, asked what an employee currently could do if forced to get the vaccine and then became ill or died. Replied Hansen, “Without this bill, there is no recourse.”

Republican Rep. Neal Pinnow asked Hansen how many South Dakota employers tell employees to get COVID vaccinations. Hansen said the information he had was about a year old. “I couldn’t give you a list of businesses that are currently requiring it,” Hansen said, adding that “a lot” of businesses previously did.

Pinnow said that as a business owner he had a problem with the bill, especially section five that called for triple damages along with costs of the action and reasonable attorney fees. “This is going to affect small-town Main Street as well,” Pinnow said. “House Bill 1235 is not business friendly.”

Currently, “It is that employee’s choice whether to work for you or find another place to work,” Pinnow said.

Republican Rep. Bethany Soye said there are other places where government tells business what to do, such as on minimum wages and workplace discrimination. She said there were other steps businesses could take, such as requiring testing and masking, and spacing workers farther apart.

“It’s not that there’s one way to fix this problem,” Soye said.

Republican Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt spoke against the bill, saying that it didn’t provide a carve-out for education institutions. She said that would affect students who train in health care settings. “There are still some mechanical issues,” Rehfeldt said.