COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - South Carolina’s state capital is buzzing once again, as legislators gather in Columbia for a new session. On the first day back, lawmakers introduced a couple of new bills in the House of Representatives to tackle COVID-19 vaccination mandates.
Rep. Russell Fry (R-Horry) is among those backing some of the latest installments of a GOP-led initiative to take vaccine mandates off the table in the Palmetto State.
One of the bills introduced to the S.C. House Tuesday is the South Carolina Vaccination Rights Act of 2022. It’s backed by dozens of other Republicans as well, including area Reps. Heather Ammons Crawford (R-Horry), Jay Jordan Jr. (R-Florence), and Phillip D. Lowe (R-Florence).
The measure would, in part, make it an unlawful discriminatory practice in South Carolina to refuse someone a job, education, and other services and opportunities, on the basis that they refused to provide their vaccination status or an immunity passport.
An employer or government entity would not be discriminating as long as they only recommended, not required, an employee gets the shot, per the proposed legislation.
“This is a very inclusive country, it always has been, and it’s one of our strengths,” Fry said. “But what you’re seeing, unfortunately, in certain cities and states all across this country is a willingness to embrace a mandate, which is really creating two different types of people, two different types of opportunities.”
Another bill introduced Tuesday tackled mandates specifically aimed at first responders in the public sector.
Per H. 4561, the measure would prohibit compelling a law enforcement officer, firefighter, EMT or paramedic to get the COVID-19 vaccine. If a first responder received any backlash for not getting the shot, like a demotion or termination, they would have the right to bring a cause of action against their employer.
With federal mandates from the Biden Administration facing different blocks by the courts, Fry said he believed it was the role of all levels of government to educate people but not to mandate vaccination.
“If we’re encouraging people to follow the science, why are we mandating any of this?” Fry questioned.
The two bills have since been referred to the House’s Judiciary Committee for further consideration, but they are among a slew of other proposed measures to take vaccine mandates off the table, some further along than others.
At the tail end of 2021, the South Carolina House successfully passed a bill banning vaccine mandates by public employers, and making anyone fired by a private employer because of not getting the vaccine, eligible for unemployment benefits.
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That bill has since been introduced this week to the Senate, where it was referred to the Finance Committee for consideration.
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