In anticipation of Colorado’s State Assembly session commencing next week, Rep. Kim Ransom (R-Lone Tree) announced to state Senate Minority leader Chris Holbert (R-Parker) on talk radio Monday that she will introduce a recycled version of her bill from last year’s legislative session which would ban discrimination based on vaccine status.
Last year’s House Bill 21-1191, titled “Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status: Concerning the prohibition against discrimination based on the refusal to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine, was postponed indefinitely –or “killed”– late in the session by the House Health & Insurance Committee on a party-line vote.
Ransom says she will introduce a similar bill this session, with some changes in the statute language.
Democrats will control the majority in the House and committees — as they did in last year’s session — prompting questions as to whether the bill can succeed without substantial changes to appease Democratic concerns.
Ransom’s bill from the 2021 legislative session proposed sanctions against employers who would punish applicants or employees for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, to include licensed health facilities. It extended the protections against discrimination clients and patrons of government agencies, private businesses, and health insurers.
“The bill was just to prevent discrimination against people that choose to have the vaccine or that don’t choose to have the vaccine. I saw it coming — well — a little over a year ago, when people were first starting to get vaccinated, it had just been released,” Ransom explained to Holbert, her fellow-Douglas County lawmaker and friend. “The vaccinations were still definitely in that experimental [stage]– and they’re still categorized as experimental. They’re authorized under emergency status, and that is actually a good thing. I want people that want the vaccinations to be able to get them, should they want them, should they choose to have them. But at the same time, I don’t want anyone to feel forced. And I don’t think that in a free society, we should be forced to undergo any type of medical procedure unless we choose to do it. I think coercion, I think force, I think threats are the wrong way to get people to get any type of medical procedure done. And that is why I was willing to run the bill last year, just to say that we will not discriminate against people, whether it’s at their place of employment, whether it’s at a business that they want to go [and] buy things at or use, whether it’s housing or anything else.”
Citing constituent requests to run her bill again, Ransom explained that because she can not introduce the exact same bill in this year’s session, she will change the language “just a little.” She contends that her bill does not encourage nor discourage people from getting the vaccine and that privacy concerns should protect against sharing any information regarding vaccination status.
“And you’re just forcing people to disclose what I consider to be HIPAA-protected medical data,” Ransom said. “I mean, that is your personal, private medical information that you have discussed with — most likely — a health professional of one sort or another and made a decision based on your personal health, your personal background, your personal body, just the way you’re put together.”
Ransom told Holbert that the bill will be updated based on statistical information that became available since the widespread distribution of vaccines, but did not specify exactly how the language will change.
She mentioned that some of her rationale for running the bill again comes from the perception that other states have overstepped constitutional authority in implementing mandates, although she did not provide specific examples.
Based on the eight-hour hearing the bill received in Committee last year, Ransom expects this year’s version to attract lots of attention, commentary, and testimony.
Ransom said she hopes that her bill will be referred to committees with relevant scope, objecting to last year’s assignment to House Health & Insurance when the bill does not address the medical efficacy of vaccines but instead addresses the legality of mandates. Despite the obvious implications to public health, she said she hopes for her bill to be heard in the House Judiciary committee, instead.
In Colorado, COVID vaccinations are required for state employees in lieu of those not willing to be tested twice weekly, and employers with over 100 employees must ensure that same compliance among employees. President Biden’s executive orders require vaccination of all federal employees and federal contractors. The state board of health has also approved an emergency vaccine requirement for health care facilities licensed by the state. Some private schools and universities have also instituted their own mandates.
Exemptions from getting the vaccine are available from some employers, although the state’s standard certificates of medical and Nonmedical exemptions do not cover the COVID-19 vaccines. Federal statutes, such as the Americans with Diabilities Act (ADA) and Civil Rights Act offer some exemptions for qualified individuals.
In the year since COVID vaccinations have been administered to the general population, over 205 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, corroborating with just under 67% of the population in Colorado.
There have been press reports of people in Colorado refusing terms of mandates losing their jobs in law enforcement, and among first responders and employees of the University of Colorado Health system.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccines have been determined to be safe and effective in reducing transmission and severity of COVID-19 among recipients. Safety problems and adverse events, while identified in a small percentage of patients, are rare.
The Colorado Times Recorder contacted Ransom for comment on this story and did not receive a reply. We will update this post with any future response.