S Carolina Senate panel revives COVID-19 vaccine ban bill

February 21, 2022 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Republican leader in the South Carolina Senate is reviving a bill to prevent public employers from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine and adding a proposal to fine private companies requiring the shot $7,500 for each person fired because of that mandate.

Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey presented his proposal Thursday to a Senate Finance subcommittee considering an anti-mandate bill passed by the House in December.

One big change proposed by Massey is to add a fine to the unemployment insurance taxes paid by a private company requiring the vaccine.

The fine would be equal to 10 times the state’s highest unemployment tax rate, or roughly $7,500 per employee fired for four years, The Post and Courier newspaper reported.


“This is an attention-getter. This will get any employer’s attention,” said Massey, a Republican from Edgefield. “If you’ve got federal contracts on the line, and you need to go forward, it allows you to do it, but there will be a surcharge.”

Business groups plan to fight the bill.

“South Carolina has a long and proud tradition of allowing private-sector employers to run their businesses without excessive government interference, which has been a strong competitive advantage for the state’s job creators. Imposing a major tax increase on employers that are attempting to make decisions that they believe is in the best interest of their businesses would run directly counter to that principle,” said Bob Morgan, president and CEO of the state Chamber of Commerce.

The subcommittee passed the bill, which now moves on to the full Senate Finance Committee.

Sen. Thomas McElveen, a Democrat whose district includes Shaw Air Force Base around Sumter and its contractors, said he will fight to remove the fine for private businesses that require the vaccine.

“We can put businesses in uncomfortable decisions between us and the federal government,” McElveen said, adding he too has a problem with mandates. But that section means “on the flip side, if you do what the federal government says, we’ll tax you into oblivion. There are issues that could open up a Pandora’s box.”