Missouri GOP, businesses divided over vaccine rules
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Republicans and business groups clashed during a Tuesday state House hearing over more than a dozen bills to limit COVID-19 vaccine mandates by employers.
Republican Missouri lawmakers are typically closely aligned with business interests. But business groups, including the influential Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, chafed at GOP proposals to forbid employers from making their workers get vaccinated or risk getting fired.
“When this legislative body is willing to take the financial, the fiscal, and the emotional responsibility of owning and running a business, then maybe you should come over here and tell our folks that have put everything on the line for that business how they should operate,” Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Shannon Cooper said.
The legislation highlights Republican divisions over whether to prioritize individual liberties or business freedoms in Missouri, where state laws allow employers to fire staff for almost any reason.
Republican Rep. Dean Van Schoiack, who proposed a bill to ban any public- or private-employer mandates imposed after January 2020, told colleagues that “the people of the state of Missouri elected us to work for them.”
He said as a farmer, auctioneer and real estate broker, he left it up to his workers to decide whether to be vaccinated.
“I have never ever asked anybody I’ve employed what their vaccine status is, and I never will,” Van Schoiack said. “That’s their personal opinion and right.”
Other bills would force employers to assume liability if workers who are required to be vaccinated have any adverse side effects.
In an open letter to lawmakers and Republican Gov. Mike Parson, the group wrote that it has “always opposed efforts by any government to interfere with how businesses operate.”
“Our position remains consistent,” the group wrote. “Government should not force employers to mandate vaccination, nor should government block employers from requiring vaccination.”
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry similarly pushed back against Democratic President Joe Biden’s workplace vaccine requirement, which has since been blocked in court.