The Senate Committee on State Affairs debated a ban on COVID-19 mandates Monday while the House Committee on Public Health heard testimony regarding a COVID-19 vaccine mandate ban.
Senate Bill 29 by State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R–Granbury) would prohibit state and local governments from implementing or enforcing a vaccine mandate, mask requirement, or private business or school closure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.
SB 29 is one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s and Gov. Greg Abbott’s legislative priorities for the ongoing 88th Legislative Session.
Texans for Vaccine Choice Policy Director Rebecca Hardy spoke for the bill, stating, “Three years of unparalleled government overreach has left in its wake a huge negative impact, some of which we are yet to realize.”
“Certainly we cannot erase what has happened to millions of Texans, their businesses, their families, and their futures. We cannot even attempt to remediate losses—tangible or otherwise. What we can do is ensure that these mistakes are not repeated,” said Hardy. “This is an opportunity to recognize wrongdoing, take accountability, and insulate Texans from these violations in the future.”
Dr. Valerie Smith of the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Pediatric Society spoke against the bill, warning that “more deadly COVID strains could develop” and necessitate mandates.
Tom Glass of Texas Constitutional Enforcement disagreed, stating, “Command and control doesn’t save lives. It kills people.”
He vocalized his support of SB 29 and highlighted that as of January, Harris County courts “were forcing people who signed up for jury duty or to come into the courts to wear masks.”
SB 29 was left pending in committee.
House Bill 81 by State Rep. Brian Harrison (R–Midlothian) was heard in the House Committee on Public Health and would prevent any entity from compelling or coercing individuals to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine. It would require informed consent before any individual is given the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The COVID vaccine mandates destroy medical freedom,” said Harrison. “The Texas COVID Vaccine Freedom Act protects above all else, the medical freedom of every Texan to make their own medical decisions regarding COVID.”
Dr. Jason Turk of the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Pediatric Society testified in opposition to HB 81, saying “it would [also] result in a significant chilling effect on our duty to discuss the merits of the COVID-19 vaccines.”
Turk also said that clinics must be able to decide which vaccinations should be required for their staff.
Michelle Evans, legislative director for Texans for Vaccine Choice, testified for HB 81, saying that “many companies took it upon themselves to mandate” COVID-19 vaccines following President Joe Biden’s speech encouraging vaccinations.
Evans cited stories from many Texans who were forced to choose between their livelihood and their liberty.
The COVID tyranny didn’t end at the workplace. We continue to receive reports from panicked parents whose children are being denied life-saving care such as organ transplants due to their decision not to vaccinate against COVID-19.
“HB 81 would guarantee a Texan’s right to full, informed consent,” said Evans.
HB 81 was left pending in committee.
The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services will hear testimony on potential legislation regarding COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, March 22. SB 177, the companion bill to HB 81, will be debated in this committee hearing.
The 88th Legislative Session ends May 29.
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