The Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday passed emergency legislation to speed up the state’s slow vaccination campaign by expanding which health care workers can administer shots to citizens and locations serving as inoculation sites.
House Bill 2333, introduced by Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), passed the House with bipartisan support from committee to a final floor vote in just one day, a process that normally takes multiple meetings of the body.
The legislation is nearly identical to Senate Bill 1445, sponsored by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and advanced through the Senate last week thanks to a push from a group of bipartisan legislators, but with some differences
In general, both pieces of legislation look to accelerate the vaccination process by calling on the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to establish a process allowing healthcare professionals from a variety of fields and medical students who are licensed or certified to volunteer to help administer COVID-19 vaccines to Virginians.
Additionally, the two measures also ask VDH to create a separate process where entities like businesses or churches can volunteer their spaces to become a vaccination sites, provide civil immunity for the healthcare workers administering vaccines except in cases of gross negligence and allow universities – public and private – to assist VDH with data processing related to the vaccine.
The bills also waive certain training requirements necessary to join the Medical Reserve Corps except for intramuscular injection and associated side effects of the vaccines.
In terms of the differences, besides specific language here and there, the House version requires vaccinators collect data on the person receiving the vaccine including their race and ethnicity and must report that data to the Virginia Immunization Information System.
On Wednesday, during an appearance on The John Fredericks Radio Show, Dunnavant voiced complaints about the House not putting her bill, which they had since Friday, on a committee docket to be heard and instead passing their own slightly altered version with HB 2333.
“I can’t tell you the intent,” Dunnavant said on the radio show. “I don’t know if it’s the House that just wants to have provided a solution from a House bill or if it’s Republican-Democrat [thing]. I don’t know. I tried to bridge all those potential snags – let’s be bicameral, let’s be bipartisan – but somehow we’re snagged.”
Despite not giving a guess on the motive behind the House’s action, Dunnavant said the move felt political to her and that it was playing games with the legislative process. She also called for the House and Senate to get the urgent legislation through together.
In an interview with The Virginia Star, Bagby offered a reason on why the House introduced HB 2333.
“It was clear to us as we went through the Senate legislation and had conversations with the Senate three things: We had already been working on legislation to address the issue, [Northam’s] administration was working on executive orders to address the situation, and what we wanted to do is make an omnibus bill that addressed it all,” Bagby said. “I believe, in talking to members of the Senate, that they agree that the legislation we have sent over to them is ideal.”
Bagby added that HB 2333 is supposed to be comprehensive legislation for all lawmakers to get behind instead of the two chambers and the governor trying to solve the issue of a slow vaccine rollout separately.
The delegate also said that he had spoken with several members of the Senate about the House version of the bill, but not specifically to Dunnavant on the matter.
The Star reached out to House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) and Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) to inquire when SB 1445 would be heard by the body but did not get responses before press time.
In order for Governor Ralph Northam to sign the legislation into law and make it immediately effective, both chambers have to pass the exact same version of the bill. So, either the Senate will need to adopt the House’s version or vice versa.
– – –
John Fredericks is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Virginia Star.
He is also a Trump 2020 delegate and the chairman of the Trump Virginia Delegation.