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Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Requirement Of 'Vaccine Passports,' Fails To Advance Commerce Budget

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Arkansas Senate
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A bill that would prohibit entities in Arkansas from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccine, also called a "vaccine passport," has passed in the state Senate.

By a vote of 23-8 Tuesday, senators advanced Senate Bill 615. It prohibits the state, a state agency or entity, a political subdivision of the state or any state or local official from requiring an individual produce documentation that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

The bill also prohibits the need of a COVID-19 vaccine as a "condition of entry, travel, education or services." In presenting the bill, Sen. Trent Garner. R-El Dorado, spoke on the need for such legislation, even if it means mandating what businesses can do.  

"Typically I’m for what corporations, private businesses can do on their own time, but this is such a dramatic invasion of privacy, such a change in the norms that we live in and the idea that in America in 2021, you have to show papers in order to do basic services is frankly unamerican," Garner said.

Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, asked Garner why there should be a pushback on COVID-19 vaccine requirements compared to other vaccine requirements.

"In schools, they require vaccines for measles and mumps and things like that. I’m just curious the rational of why this is different and whether we should leave this decision to public health experts and scientists and doctors, and not to be made by us," Tucker said.

Garner listed the novelty of the COVID-19 vaccine as one of the reasons why this bill is needed, saying other vaccines have been around for "generations."

The bill now goes to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.

COMMERCE APPROPRIATION FAILS AGAIN

For the second day in a row, the Senate failed to accumulate the needed votes to pass budget appropriations for the Arkansas Department of Commerce for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Senate voted 24-2 Tuesday on Senate Bill 132, which is four more yes votes than Monday’s vote, but still three short of the 27 needed to advance the bill.

Though no comments were made on the bill on Tuesday, both Senators Bob Ballinger, R-Ozark, and Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, gave reasons as to why they were not in favor of the bill on Monday.

Of the eight senators who voted against the bill on Monday, only two kept their no vote on Tuesday. One senator switched to a present vote, two switched to a yes vote, while three were non-voting.

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