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Bill That Bans Vaccine Mandates Teeter-Totters Between House Leaders

 House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) tells reporters the House is "moving on" from bills that ban or limit vaccine mandates.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) tells reporters the House is "moving on" from bills that ban or limit vaccine mandates.

First, House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) announced the legislature would be "moving on" from working on bills that try to ban or limit vaccine mandates.

Those were his comments on Wednesday after the House GOP once again failed to reach a consensus on HB435, which would grant broad exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the public and private sector.

Then, on Thursday morning, House Health Committee Chair Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) scheduled a hearing for HB248, a bill that bans mandates on all childhood and adult vaccines.

That October 19 hearing put the bill up for a possible vote out of committee. The announcement came as a surprise around Capitol Square given Cupp's previous comments.

The back-and-forth ended when Cupp sent Lipps a letter Thursday evening, publicly ordering him to cancel the meeting. At that point, Lipps' office confirmed the hearing had been canceled.

With House lawmakers signaling a transition away from legislation that would restrict COVID-19 vaccine policies, Bruce Vanderhoff, Ohio Department of Health director, was asked if he saw this as a potential opening to do more to increase the state's COVID-19 vaccination rate.

"Our focus remains on getting good information out to people and encouraging vaccination rather than as a department of health providing specific mandates for the vaccine," said Vanderhoff.

While House Republican leadership are putting the brakes on HB248, the bill's co-sponsor Rep. Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester) is trying to orchestrate a maneuver around the House speaker.

The lawmaker has been circulating what's known as a discharge petition that would compel a House floor vote if enough people sign on. The petition would need 50 votes to go to the floor.So far 13 Republican legislators have added their names.

A federal rule for businesses to require employees to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 is expected soon.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.