JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Missouri House Judiciary Committee heard testimony Wednesday from witnesses representing prominent industries who lamented the harm they say President Joe Biden's vaccine plan will cause employers.
The hearing included testimony from Jorgen Schlemeier from the Missouri Assisted Living Association, Ray McCarty from the Associated Industries of America and Nikki Strong from the Missouri Health Care Association.
The mandate would require large businesses with 100 or more employees to either be vaccinated or tested once a week. Companies potentially face thousands of dollars in fines if they do not comply.
Schlemeier said assisted living homes are facing difficulty hiring and retaining staff. If the vaccine plan goes into effect in Missouri, Schlemeier predicts more people will leave the industry altogether.
"The big issue really is that we believe that the goal of the rule fails, it is not going to achieve what I believe (is) the intended purpose," Schlemeier said.
Rep. Sara Wash, R-Ashland, asked McCarty how the vaccine plan might affect supply chain issues; McCarty said would exacerbate existing issues.
Strong said her industry has already seen how vaccine mandates affect staffing issues. Biden last month announced that his administration would require all nursing home employees to get the ccoronavirus vaccine.
"Staffing was difficult before COVID," Strong said. "Staffing has become extremely difficult during COVID."
Watch a replay of the hearing in the player below.
Two lawmakers also testified, Rep. John Wiemann (R-St. Charles) and Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O'Fallon), who are running against each other in a primary for U.S. Senate.
They were heavily questioned by Rep. Ian Mackey (D-St. Louis), who was cut off as he asked what personal responsibility Schroer had taken during the pandemic.
"I viewed it as their first debate," Mackey said. "I viewed myself as the lucky moderator."
One person, Angela Davis, participated in public testimony. She said she's tired of mandates and wants the politicians to better serve the people they are representing.
Protesters set up on the steps of the Capitol building before the hearing with signs, flags and T-shirts to show their opposition to Biden's plan.
"We don't feel that the government has the right to mandate anything," said protester Steve Hamilton. "So, any taxpayer-funded entity, we don't feel that they should be mandating [the vaccine] to their employees."
A gathering was held in the Capitol rotunda during the hearing. Lawmakers encouraged Missourians not to follow any vaccine mandates the federal government puts into place.
Biden also signed an executive order requiring all government employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, without an opt-out option of being regularly tested for the virus.
Multiple Missouri politicians, including Gov. Mike Parson, have commented on the new mandates. Parson said Biden's plan "is an insult to our American principles of individual liberty and free enterprise."
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce issued the following statement on the federal vaccine plan.
The Biden Administration’s new COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandate is the wrong approach for business. As always, the Missouri Chamber will stand against attempts to place new government mandates on our employer community.
Each workplace is different and employers have long held the right to establish vaccine policies that work for their businesses. The Missouri Chamber believes all employers should continue to have this right when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.
In contrast with Biden Administration’s approach, we believe the federal government should instead cooperate with the employer community to encourage vaccination and support employers that exercise their legal right to require vaccination.
It’s unfortunate that this new federal policy will likely further divide public sentiment around COVID-19 vaccination. The Missouri Chamber believes that vaccination remains key to our economic recovery. We need to more Missourians to get vaccinated so that we can begin to put this pandemic behind us. The Missouri Chamber will continue leading in this effort and we strongly encourage all Missourians to get vaccinated against COVID-19.Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry
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