State Representative Iris Rudder (R-Winchester) pulled a bill making it a punishable offense for discriminating against another based on the COVID-19 vaccine status. The legislation was scheduled to appear before the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on Tuesday, but Rudder requested that the bill be pulled. She didn’t provide any explanation as to why.
The bill aimed to limit any “direct or indirect act or practice of exclusion, distinction, restriction, segregation, limitation, refusal, denial, or other practice of differentiation or preference in the treatment of a person or persons[.]” This would have extended to any entity open to the public, which includes businesses, airlines, public transit systems, and schools. They would’ve been prohibited from following through on actions or policies regarding COVID-19 vaccines – even if they were adhering to local, state, or federal statutes or orders.
If found guilty of discrimination, those entities would’ve been subject to hefty fines. Courts would first fine $1,000 for the first act of discrimination, then $10,000, and then finally $750,000 for all subsequent acts of discrimination.
The bill was first introduced in the Senate by State Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma). However, the legislation hasn’t seen any action since several days after its introduction.
Less than two hours after the bill was pulled, Governor Bill Lee announced that he was supporting legislation to prohibit government-mandated COVID-19 vaccine passports.
“I oppose vaccine passports. The COVID-19 vaccine should be a personal health choice, not a government requirement,” wrote Lee. “I am supporting legislation to prohibit any government-mandated vaccine passports to protect the privacy of Tennesseans’ health information and ensure this vaccine remains a voluntary, personal decision.”
The bill wouldn’t be applicable to other types of vaccine passports – just the COVID-19 infection and its variants.
I oppose vaccine passports. The COVID-19 vaccine should be a personal health choice, not a government requirement.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) April 6, 2021
The legislation is a rewrite of House Bill 575 through an amendment, which hasn’t been posted to the General Assembly website as of press time. The sponsor of the bill, State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), claimed that an unnamed county bordering his district has been or is in the process of mandating businesses to require vaccine passports upon entry. He also read remarks from Lee, which were similar to those from his Twitter posting.
That amended bill was passed in the House Health Subcommittee on Tuesday.
That same subcommittee refused to pass a bill to allow for religious exemptions to vaccinations even during a pandemic, as The Tennessee Star reported last month.
Another bill to prohibit refusal of services based on the wearing or use of a medical device, or the reception of certain medical treatment, was deferred to the 2022 session.
Rudder didn’t respond to request for comment from The Tennessee Star by press time.
– – –