Arkansas passed two laws Wednesday that allow residents to opt-out of federal COVID-19 mandates.
The two similar bills allow for employees in the state who work for companies with 100 or more people to effectively opt-out of President Joe Biden's mandate that employees in those companies must be vaccinated against the virus.
The bills allow for employees to be exempt from the vaccination requirement if they can produce negative COVID tests, or documentation that they have natural immunity from having the disease.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not sign the bills, but used a law in that state where bills can become law if the governor takes no action to sign or veto them in five days after they arrive on the governor's desk.
“These bills are unnecessary, and the conversation has been harmful to our goal of encouraging vaccines. For those reasons I will not sign the bills into law with my signature. I will allow them to become law without signing,” Hutchinson said in a statement Wednesday.
“These two bills are designed to push back on President Biden’s vaccination mandate for federal contractors and employers with more than 100 employees,” he continued. “I am opposed to the current mandate by the Biden administration, but the solution is not to place additional mandates on employers at the state government level.
"The solution is not to put employers in a squeeze play between state and federal law. Employers need the freedom to protect their employees and their customers, and government should not interfere with that freedom through mandates.”
According to the USA Facts website, 46.32% of the state’s population are fully vaccinated and 56% have had at least one dose of the three available vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
“While some Arkansans state they need the option to opt-out of the vaccine requirements and need to be provided reasonable accommodations if they choose not to take the vaccine, those protections are already in place,” Hutchinson said.
“In fact, based upon the president’s announcement, it is anticipated that the federal mandate will allow for weekly testing for those individuals who do not wish to take the vaccine. Medical and religious exemptions are already in place for any vaccine requirements. Therefore, these bills are unnecessary and could interfere with the at-will employment status of the State of Arkansas and could be costly for employees.”
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