LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A piece of legislation that would provide employees with more exemptions to the vaccine passed both state chambers and is headed to the Governor.
Senate Bill 739, gives exemptions to employees for the COVID-19 vaccine. It also allows employees to show a negative COVID-19 test instead of receiving the vaccine.
State Sen. Jim Hendren, I-Gravette, said the bill is an overreach on businesses.
“I don’t think the government needs to be interfering with the employer, employee relationship unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Hendren said.
While sponsor of the bill, State Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, said the bill is meant to help employees.
“This protects the hardworking employees not looking to leave their employment but are being forced to leave and I think this creates a remedy for that pathway forward,” Hammer said.
Sen. Hendren and Gov. Asa Hutchinson said they are both concerned that this state law could conflict with President’s Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate for employers with more than 100 employees.
“Not to mention it puts us in conflict with federal law, there’s no question that the law that we passed is going to be in conflict with OSHA regulations in the federal law,” Hendren said.
Gov. Hutchinson said he will have to talk with the Department of Labor to see how this new legislation could play out in Arkansas.
“I want to see how that’s going to fit and whether the employers will be caught in a bind between the federal requirements and what the state law might require,” Hutchinson said.
Washington Regional, which requires its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, issued the following statement on the bill.
“We know vaccines are safe and represent the most effective means available to control and end the COVID-19 pandemic. The effectiveness of employer mandates is being borne out across the United States as well as at Washington Regional. It is regrettable that sound principles of public health, which have been advocated by numerous medical and scientific authorities, have been politicized.“Larry Shackleford, President & CEO of Washington Regional
The house and senate will reconvene Thursday morning. Sen. Hendren said he believes Thursday will be the last day of the special session.