The Michigan Senate passed Tuesday a number of bills that aim to limit vaccination and mask mandates for students as the fight over COVID-19 measures during the pandemic continues.
Senate Bills 600–603 would prohibit schools from requiring students to receive an emergency use authorization (EUA) vaccination to participate in school-related activities and would require schools with mask mandates to provide a waiver process for students.
The bills were introduced by Sens. Lana Theis (R-Brighton), Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) and Kim LaSata (R-Bainbridge Twp.).
Barrett said these bills “draw a line in the sand” between parents and the government.
“If you are a parent who wants to exempt your child from the COVID-19 vaccine because you believe that your child isn’t ready for that or isn’t required to receive it or can get by just fine without it, then the idea that you would be ridiculed for that decision, not able to make that decision on your own accord or that you can’t have the choice to decide for yourself and for your children what you ought and ought not be administering to your children is precisely why these bills are necessary,” Barrett said.
Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) called the bill package “patently pointless” because of a rule passed in 2014 by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules that grants parents and guardians the right to a waiver process for all vaccinations through county health departments.
All four bills passed through the Senate along party lines and will go next to the House for a vote.
However, even if passed by both chambers, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is likely to veto the bills.
Whitmer issued an executive directive Tuesday to state departments and agencies to expedite the ordering and distribution of Pfizer vaccinations in Michigan ahead of the expected approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The FDA already approved the vaccine for children as young as 12 years old earlier this year.
“Today, we’re taking action to keep our kids safe from COVID-19,” said Whitmer in a statement. “This is a game-changer for our kids that will protect them as they continue to learn in-person in the classroom this school year, participate in extracurricular activities, or see friends and family this holiday season. My directive today ensures equitable, expedited distribution of the vaccines. Parents should sign up to protect their kids.”
According to Whitmer’s office, the state has pre-ordered 287,700 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
‘Tampon tax’ legislation garners bipartisan support
Two bills aimed at ending taxes on menstrual products on Tuesday passed through the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support
House Bill 5267, introduced by Rep. Bryan Posthumus (R-Cannon Twp.), and Senate Bill 153, introduced by Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), would end the state’s use tax and sales tax on feminine hygiene products.
(I have) received way more interaction from parents who are very, very concerned about the mask mandates and the vaccine mandates and free access to education for their children than they are for taxes on menstrual products.
– Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) on why she voted against bills getting rid of the 'tampon tax'
Both bills passed through the Senate with a 32-2 vote.
Though these bills have received more bipartisan support than they have garnered in the last six years – when they stalled in the GOP-led Legislature – there was still some pushback from Republicans on Tuesday.
Barrett offered an amendment to the bill to expand cutting taxes for all hygiene products, not limited to menstrual products, but his amendment was shot down with a voice vote.
Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) and Theis were the lone Republicans to vote no on the bills.
Theis offered an explanation for her vote saying she has “received way more interaction from parents who are very, very concerned about the mask mandates and the vaccine mandates and free access to education for their children than they are for taxes on menstrual products.”
Voucher-style education bills
The GOP-led state Senate passed two bills Tuesday that would give tax credits to Michiganders who contribute to a scholarship program for nonpublic schools.
House Bills 5404 and 5405, introduced by Posthumus and Rep. Phil Green (R-Millington), would create Michigan Opportunity Scholarship Accounts that can be used by families for education or learning expenses and tax credits for corporations to make tax-deductible contributions to private schools for student tuition.
The Senate passed similar bills last week, Senate Bill 687 and Senate Bill 688, which opponents said are “unconstitutional” and violate the 1970 Blaine Amendment to the state Constitution, which prohibits public money from going to private schools.
The House bills passed in the Senate along party lines Tuesday with a 19-15 vote and will next be sent to the governor’s desk, though she is likely to veto.
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