By Brandon Moseley
The Alabama Legislature passed two bills designed to provide some relief to Alabamians who are struggling to deal with COVID-19 vaccination mandates from their employers and the Biden Administration. The legislature worked to finalize drafts of the two bills in an extended session that went late into the night.
Following the work of the legislature and complex negotiations between the two Houses in a conference committee, the Governor’s office said that Kay Ivey (R) plans to sign the two bills pending review by her legal team.
Senate Bill 9 is sponsored by State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Fairhope). It sets state standards for religious and medical exemptions from vaccine mandates.
Senate Bill 15 is sponsored by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur). SB15 requires that a minor child have written parental consent from their parent before getting a COVID-19 vaccination. It also prevents schools from asking about a child’s COVID-19 vaccine status.
The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) opposes both pieces of legislation. This U.S. Chamber of Commerce affiliate in the state represents businesses of all sizes in Alabama.
“The current vaccine mandate bills moving through the Alabama Legislature cause confusion and place Alabama employers in a no-win position by forcing them to comply with conflicting state and federal laws,” the BCA said in a statement on social media.
Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield went on Twitter to voice his support for the BCA position.
“BCA is right,” Canfield said. “The best course of action for defeating the federal vaccine mandates is having them set aside by the courts. Gov. Ivey and AG Marshall have taken that action.”
Ivey and Attorney General Marshall have joined a lawsuit with other states to fight the mandate.
Former BCA President and CEO turned U.S. Senate candidate Katie Britt broke with the organization on this issue.
“I urge our lawmakers to pass legislation to protect the freedom of hardworking Alabamians,” Britt said on social media. "The State of Alabama should do everything within its power to preserve liberty and jobs across our state.”
Both SB9 and SB15 passed the House on Thursday and then went to the State Senate, where the Senators rejected them as written. The two bills then went to a conference committee where the final versions were hammered out. The conference committee versions went to the floor of each House for rare night time sessions.
SB15 originally tasked the Attorney General’s office with seeking injunctions against businesses that denied services to persons based on vaccination status. That provision was dropped in the conference committee version. The AG’s office can still enforce the ban on a minor getting a COVID-19 vaccination without written consent.
The compromise legislation passed both Houses and then the legislature voted to sine die the special session.
This puts Ivey in an awkward spot. If her legal team finds anything at all wrong with the two pieces of legislation, she cannot send them back to the legislature with an amendment because they have ended the special session and are headed back to their districts with their work complete. Ivey is left with three choices:
Time is a limiting factor because tens of thousands of Alabamians have refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine and are facing pending terminations, including all of the employees at the University of Alabama, Auburn University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the University of Alabama at Huntsville.