State bill would block enforcement of federal vaccine requirements

Kevin Landrigan

The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester

CONCORD — An effort to block state enforcement of any federal COVID-19 vaccine requirement cleared its first hurdle along party lines Monday.

The legislation (HB 1455) most directly would apply to the federal government’s requirement that health care workers receive the vaccine for their employers to receive federal Medicare or Medicaid support.

“We will not be blackmailed,” said state Rep. Leah Cushman (R- Weare), who works as a contract nurse.

“We will not enforce the federal government’s dictates that we force people to have vaccines.”

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the mandate for all private employers with at least 100 employees. A court granted a nationwide injunction against a separate requirement for federal contractors.

The House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee voted 11-10 on Monday in support of the bill, sponsored by House Speaker Sherman Packard (R- Londonderry).

“With boosters and vaccines now readily available, the ease and accessibility of home testing, and the overall decrease in risk including a plummeting hospitalization and infection rate, we are now in the position to concentrate on our overall prevention strategy,” Packard said in a statement after the vote.

” New Hampshire has proven through thoughtful self-management, that we can move in the right direction toward normalcy without the interference of Washington, D.C.”

Fed aid may be at risk

Rep. Jerry Knirk (D- Freedom) said he is worried that county nursing homes and two state-run hospitals could be at risk of losing federal support if this bill becomes law.

“This is not a matter of blackmail; it is a matter of following proper medical care,” said Knirk, a retired surgeon.

Cushman said the federal government hasn’t acted against other states that have taken similar action.

She likened the action to communities declaring themselves to be “sanctuary cities” that will not enforce federal immigration laws.

Packard came up with this legislation after hundreds of vaccine mandate opponents loudly shouted down his leadership team during a rally on the topic last summer.

Gov. Chris Sununu last year instructed state prosecutors to join lawsuits challenging all three of the Biden mandates.

However, the governor has repeatedly said he supports the right of private businesses to impose COVID-19 vaccine mandates that apply to workers or customers.

Also on Monday, the panel voted, 12-9, to recommend killing a bill (HB 1481) that would do away with a personal immunization exception law legislators passed in 2021.

Rep. Joe Schapiro (D- Keene) a retired social worker, said the Legislature has taken too many actions that celebrate personal liberty over public health.

“Where is the concern about the common good? Where is the concern about public health?” Schapiro said.

“I think we have just tipped the scales in terms of privacy and personal choice and thought very little about the common good.”

Rep. Dennis Acton (R- Fremont) said these bills represent a legitimate answer to government and health industry overreach during the pandemic.

“Many of these bills were pushback in response to what we have been through. They didn’t just materialize out of thin air. They came from what we have endured during COVID, and it has been intense,” Acton said.

Both bills head to the full House for final votes later this month.


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