Lauer, Walker talk about pending legislation at virtual Third House

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Two state lawmakers representing Columbus discussed proposed legislation on COVID-19 vaccine requirements for private employers, changes to Indiana’s gun laws and other bills during a virtual Third House session.

Sponsored by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, about 45 people participated in Monday’s video conference held via Zoom that sought to offer those in the Columbus area the chance to hear directly from their lawmakers about pending legislation in the Indiana General Assembly.

Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, and Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, participated in the event. Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, was invited but did not attend.

The first question from those in attendance was about HB 1001, which would force employers to grant exemptions to workers who claim medical or religious objections to COVID-19 vaccination requirement and limit employers to requiring COVID-19 tests no more than once a week.

It also requires businesses to accept as a vaccine exemption a worker’s medical test results showing some level of immunity through a previous infection and makes anyone fired for not getting a COVID-19 vaccination eligible for unemployment benefits.

Earlier this month, the Republican-dominated Indiana House voted 58-35 in favor of the measure, sending it to the Senate for consideration. Lauer and Lucas voted for the bill.

Lauer, who co-authored the bill, said HB 1001 seeks to “protect Hoosier workers from federal mandates” but would not prevent businesses from implementing mandates provided that they allow for the exemptions outlined in the bill.

“House Bill 1001 respects the ability of businesses to do mandates,” Lauer said. “They can still do mandates. But they have to honor those three exemptions and the ability for employees to make personal choices based on their own personal situations.”

Walker, for his part, expressed some reservations about some of the current language in the bill and suggested that workplace COVID-19 vaccination policies should be a discussion between workers and employers.

For the complete story, see Tuesday’s Republic.