By Christian Wade | The Center Square
A group of conservative Republican lawmakers want to prevent New Hampshire from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for state workers and contractors.
During a livestreamed hearing of the House Committee on Executive Departments and Administration on Tuesday, the lawmakers proposed an amendment to a package of legislation extending pandemic rules that would ban on any state agency or “business getting taxpayer money” from “compelling” employees or clients to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Rep. Timothy Baxter, R-Seabrook, the amendment’s main sponsor, said passports mean people “could discriminate against flying, travel, going to a job or simply going to the supermarket.”
“Many people are concerned about the disproportionate impact of something as simple as requiring an ID for things like voting,” Baxter told the committee. “This would have even more disproportionate impact on those same marginalized communities.”
Baxter said the proposal would also prohibit the state from doing business with any private company that requires their employees to get vaccinated.
“Arguably, the role of government is to protect the rights of its people,” he added. “One of the most fundamental rights, is the right to bodily autonomy.”
His amendment was supported by Rep. Leah Cushman, R-Weare, a registered nurse who said the government shouldn’t be mandating that people take drugs with “inherent health risks.”
“No one should be marginalized from society for not taking something they do not wish to take,” she told the panel. “You are coercing people into getting a vaccine.”
To be sure, Gov. Chris Sununu has said he opposes vaccine passports and won’t require state workers to get vaccinated to remain on the job.
The bill being debated by the committee, which is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, includes extensions of a number COVID-19-related requirements, such as authorizing COVID-19 testing and vaccination by pharmacists. Many of the extensions are being sought by the Sununu administration.
But dozens of amendments have been tacked onto the proposal as it has worked its way through the approval process, some of which have been weeded out by legislative leaders.
Several medical and health care groups spoke in opposition to Baxter’s amendment, saying it would be too complicated and unworkable.
Gina Balkus, CEO of the New Hampshire Home Care, Hospice and Palliative Care Association, told the committee her group opposes a section of the amendment that would prevent home care hospice agencies from inquiring if their employees are vaccinated.
She said most of the medically vulnerable clients served by hospice care want to be assured that workers coming into their homes are protected from the virus.
“It’s essential that agencies know which of our staff have been vaccinated and which have not, as their status may impact which patients they are assigned to care for,” she said. “Patients who have certain medical conditions, are severely immunocompromised, or who are unable to be vaccinated are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.”