By Craig Monger

A state lawmaker is hoping a pre-filed bill will help combat what are commonly called “vaccine passports.” 

State Rep. Ritchie Whorton pre-filed the “Alabama Health Freedom Act” or HB31, which would prevent employers from discriminating against an employee based on their vaccination status. 

According to the language of the bill, the term discrimination means “the discharge, refusal to hire, refusal to promote, demotion, harassment, segregation, or discrimination in matters of compensation or benefits against an employee. This term includes any imposition, requirement, or burden on one class of employees that is not mandated for all other employees.” 

This would apply to all employers in the state — governmental or private —and would allow for any employee to file a cause of action for punitive damages, injunctive relief, or compensatory damages.  

The bill has thus far garnered a historic number of co-sponsors with 23 members of the House of Representatives. 

Mac McCutcheon, the Speaker of the House, has given criticism of the language of the bill.

“We are working on HB31,” McCutcheon said. “The bill has some issues that must be fixed. In the current form, it presents problems for small businesses and opens a door for frivolous lawsuits. The majority of Alabama Republican legislators are not supporting the federal COVID vaccine mandate. I support the vaccine but I do not support Government, telling people they will lose their job if they are not vaccinated. We must have a coalition of states supporting this effort.”

Kaycee Cavender, Co-director and co-founder of Health Freedom Alabama, a grassroots organization formed to combat the implementation of vaccine mandates in Alabama, does not believe McCutcheon’s criticism has merit. According to Cavender, HB31 essentially “copied and pasted” the language of various anti-discrimination laws that protect various classes of individuals. She went on to say that she believes that the citizenry of Alabama wants the bill to pass the legislature. Cavender says that she believes HB31 is ultimately a bill on term limits. If legislators decide to vote against the bill or decide to gut or amend the bill, it will ultimately lead to said legislators being voted out in the following election.

The upcoming special session is purposed for redistricting and has no other bills on the docket as of now. Gov. Kay Ivey has not said if HB31 will be on the docket for the upcoming session, despite persistent outcry from members of the house and members of the public.

The representatives co-sponsoring HB31 are Wes Allen, Chip Brown, KL Brown, Jim Carns, Danny Crawford, Tracy Estes, Bob Fincher, Tommy Hanes, Mike Holmes, Jamie Kiel, Nathaniel Ledbetter, Craig Lipscomb, Steve McMillan, Ed Oliver, Phillip Pettus, Chris Sells, Ivan Smith, Andrew Sorrell, Scott Stadthagen, David Standridge, Shane Stringer, Tim Wadsworth, and Randy Wood.

State Rep. David Standridge said that he was happy to support the effort of Whorton in putting this bill forward, and believed it was a much-needed bill for the state of Alabama.

“Many of my constituents have expressed a lot of concern about the possibility of vaccine mandates in the state,” Standridge said.

He had said he had not heard of any possible amendments on the bill, or if it was slated to be on the call for the next special session. All the remaining co-sponsors have not yet responded to inquiries by 1819 News.