Recommendation to be discussed Wednesday, Dec. 15
By Guy Page
The Vermont Legislature’s Joint Rules Committee (JRC) will discuss 3 pm Wednesday a recommendation to require vaccination or a PCR test for all lawmakers and staff seeking entry into the State House.
Currently, only the masking policy is in place, and it applies to all legislators, staff, and members of the public. The Joint Rules Committee’s draft vax-or-test policy is currently drafted to only apply to legislators and legislative staff, JRC member Randy Brock told Vermont Daily Chronicle today.
“JRC has not yet taken a vote on the vax-or-test policy draft,” the Franklin County senator and Senate Minority Leader said. “It is still in the committee discussion phase.”
The Speaker of the House asked JRC to obtain feedback from other legislators on this policy in advance of Wed.’s meeting.
During JRC’s general discussion of the Leg.’s 2022 reopening plan, the issue was raised that the current draft vax-or-test policy does not apply to the public. Those “reopening plan” questions will be addressed Wednesday by Dr. Timothy Lahey of the UVM Medical Center, JRC’s health expert witness. “I anticipate JRC will further discuss that specific question on Wednesday,” Brock said.
Brock weighed in with his own opinion:
“I think there are real questions about whether it is appropriate to apply some of these provisions to the public. As we look at public access to other facilities, such as hospitals and state offices, such as DMV and the Courts, we do not apply vaccine or testing requirements. Perhaps it is reasonable to look at whether a potential visitor is symptomatic or has a fever, for example.”
Rep. Vicki Strong made it clear that, vaccine mandate or no, she will not be getting vaccinated or submit to PCR testing in order to enter the building. In an Dec. 9 email to VDC, she noted “there will most likely be a requirement to have proof of vaccination or take a PCR test before getting into the State House in January. I will not be doing either of those things so we will see how this all plays out!”
Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) agreed with Strong’s assessment of likely vax mandates for lawmakers, noting in a Dec. 9 email that increases in Covid hospitalizations and ICU bed occupancy are driving the Democratic majority’s sense of urgency.
“I suspect Vicki is right, that there will be proof of vaccination or a test for entry,” Benning said. “Unfortunately both hospitalizations and ICU Covid beds have almost doubled since my speech on the Senate floor two weeks ago. That undermines any willingness of the majority to listen.”
Categories: State Government