The House this afternoon passed SB 739 to theoretically give Arkansas workers a way around vaccination rules by their employers. That completes action on the bill and it goes to the governor, who hasn’t said yet if he’ll sign it.
Rep. Josh Bryant, the sponsor, acknowledged the bill lacked an emergency clause because the Senate couldn’t muster votes to adopt it. A House bill, also stripped of an emergency clause during Senate passage, was returned to the Senate where sponsors hope there might be a successful run at adopting the emergency clause.
Bryant said he’d agreed to send on the Senate bill so something would reach the governor if the Senate fails to act.
Without an emergency clause, the bill won’t take effect for 90 days. A lot can happen at that time, including deadlines already set by private employers for vaccinations and promulgation of federal rules on vaccinations that likely will present health institutions with the option of enforcing the federal rules or losing Medicare and Medicaid money. There are questions about whether the testing exemption outlined in Arkansas will meet some expected testing exemptions at the federal level and also about how the cost of testing will be borne.
The House and Senate are in recess until Thursday. Each is expected to vote tomorrow on identical congressional redistricting bills, the primary reason the legislature returned to session last week.
The Senate has repeatedly been unable to muster 24 votes to enact the emergency clause or expunge the vote by which the emergency clause was defeated. I expect another attempt Thursday. Should that debate finally be brought to an end, perhaps the legislature will go home.