SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California would require all businesses to require their employees and independent contractors to receive the COVID-19 vaccine under legislation announced Friday by state Democratic lawmakers that was immediately criticized by the Republicans as exaggerated government.
Employees or contractors who qualify for medical or religious exemptions would have to be tested regularly under a planned amendment to the bill. New employees should receive at least one dose when they start work and the second dose within 45 days of starting work.
Congresswoman Buffy Wicks introduced her bill months after delaying an initial proposal last fall. The previous version would have allowed workers to take weekly tests instead of getting vaccinated, but that’s not an option in his new proposal.
Vaccination mandates are highly controversial, and there have been numerous rallies at the Sacramento State Capitol to oppose these requirements.
Wicks and other supporters say the mandate is needed even as California moves to relax other requirements and anticipates the transition to a new “endemic” phase who accepts that the coronavirus is here to stay but is manageable as immunity builds.
“That’s basically what this bill is about,” she said. “Getting back to some sense of normalcy so we can get on with our lives, and we don’t have these constant interruptions and outbreaks and all these things that we’ve been going through for so long.”
The mandate would remain in place unless the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decides that COVID-19 vaccinations are no longer necessary.
The bill would require state occupational health and safety officials to advise employers on what constitutes a medical condition, disability, religious belief and valid vaccination status. Companies that fail to comply would face penalties that have yet to be determined.
Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher said he was vaccinated and is urging others to get vaccinated as well.
“But telling people they can’t feed their families unless they get the vaccine is just plain wrong,” Gallagher said. “I trust Californians enough to treat them like adults who can make their own health decisions. It is unfortunate that a few Democrats in the Legislative Assembly do not. »
The proposal drew similar concerns from Jonathan Keller, president of the conservative advocacy group the California Family Council, who said “the government should not force employers to fire people for personal medical decisions.”
Last year, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all of the state’s roughly 2.2 million health care workers to get vaccinated or lose their jobs.
He also asked state employees and teachers to get vaccinated or undergo weekly tests. And California school children by summer must be vaccinated to attend in-person classes.
Wicks’ proposal is just the latest of several far-reaching measures introduced by Democratic state lawmakers this year.
Among other things, Senator Scott Wiener would allow children 12 and older to be vaccinated without parental consent.while Senator Richard Pan would eliminate a personal belief exemption in school-based COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
Pan argued in support of Wicks’ bill that “having a safe workplace is essential to … keeping our economy going.”
People can’t be afraid of getting infected when they go to work or when they visit businesses, and businesses can’t endure frequent outbreaks that sideline their employees, he said.
More than 2,000 of the 30,000 San Francisco Bay Area members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 have been sick and some have died from the coronavirus, said campaigns director Jim Araby union strategies.
“Just as we would never ask a construction worker to enter a construction site without a helmet, we should not ask our members and workers who work in these essential industries to enter without the protection of a vaccine. “, he said in support of Wicks’ bill.
The California Chamber of Commerce, California Restaurant Association, California Retailers Association and the California Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses did not immediately comment on the bill.
But the bill has the backing of the majority small business advocacy group, which has 85,000 members nationwide, including nearly 20,000 in California.
“Small businesses don’t want to be traffic cops in public safety debates,” said John Arensmeyer, the group’s chief executive. “They seek a common statewide standard that disentangles them from politics and allows them to operate their businesses in a safe and predictable way.”