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Suing Schools Over Vaccine Rules? Why One State’s Legislature Passed New Law

A Department of Health and Human Services employee holds a COVID-19 vaccine record card Nov. 13, 2020, in Washington D.C. The cards will be sent out as part of vaccination kits from Operation Warp Speed, which is an effort by several U.S. government components and public partnerships to facilitate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. (EJ Hersom/ DoD via Louisiana Illuminator)

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Public schools and government agencies that require COVID-19 vaccinations could face lawsuits from anyone barred entry for failing to comply, according to a proposal the Louisiana Legislature approved Monday.

House Bill 54, authored by Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, passed the House and Senate after multiple rounds of amendments. Bagley, a retired educator, chairs the House Health and Welfare Committee.

The bill passed by a 58-32 vote in the Louisiana House of Representatives and by a 27-5 vote in the Louisiana Senate.

Originally, Bagley’s legislation would have made it a crime to deny someone entry based on their vaccination status in Louisiana with a fine of up to $1,000 with the possibility of up to six months in jail time. The bill was amended to make vaccination status discrimination a cause for civil action and not a crime. The jail time was also removed through an amendment, but the $1,000 fine remained on the version the House approved Monday.

It also applied to restaurants, hotels and other areas of the private sector until the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and other lawmakers raised concerns.

The bill also originally applied to all types of vaccination  but was narrowed to only apply to the COVID-19 shot.

“This bill is really designed to be one of free choice and also (protect against) discriminating against those that choose not to have the vaccine,” said Sen. Barry Milligan, R-Shreveport, who brought the bill to the Senate floor.

The Louisiana Department of Health lists vaccinations for measles, polio, meningitis and other illnesses as required for students to attend K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions, but parents or guardians can submit a waiver to exclude their children from the requirement.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jarvis DeBerry for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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