Protesters gather for a rally against COVID-19 vaccine mandates in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Attorney General Dave Yost has again rejected a proposed initiated statute to ban vaccine mandates – this time, on the grounds that ballot summary language submitted by proponents of the proposal is inaccurate.
It’s the fourth time that Yost, a Columbus Republican, has found problems with the proposed “Vaccine Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act.” Yost previously rejected proposed summary language in December 2021 and early last month. He also ruled in January that supporters of the proposed law didn’t submit enough valid signatures from Ohio voters for the measure to advance.
In a letter sent Friday, Yost stated that supporters gathered the needed 1,000 valid voter signatures this time. However, Yost asserted that the proposed ballot summary – a succinct explanation of the measure provided to voters asked to sign a petition supporting the measure – inaccurately stated that the proposed law would ban “employers” from discriminating against individuals based on their vaccine status.
He also said the proposed summary erroneously states that, under the language of the proposed law, public entities can’t encourage “businesses” from violating the proposed law or penalize “businesses” for refusing to violate it. In addition, Yost pointed to two other areas in which he said the proposed summary inaccurately summarized the proposed law regarding “businesses.”
The proposed initiated statute would prohibit any person, public official or employee, government agency, local government, school, daycare center, nursing home, residential care facility, health-care provider, insurer, institution or employer from requiring any individuals to get a vaccine.
It would also ban bars, restaurants, live-entertainment venues and other businesses from denying service to anyone based on their vaccination status, and it would make Ohioans’ vaccination status exempt from disclosure.
Anyone who believes that the act has been violated would be allowed to file a civil lawsuit against the perceived offender.
Proponents of the anti-mandate measure will get yet another chance to resubmit their proposal. If it’s approved, supporters would then have to collect about 132,000 valid voter signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties to send the measure to the state legislature. If lawmakers don’t pass it in four months, supporters could then collect another round of signatures to place the proposal on the statewide ballot.
The proposed law is similar to House Bill 248, which has stalled in the legislature since it was introduced in April 2021 by opponents of coronavirus vaccine mandates. Last fall, the Ohio House passed a relatively watered-down version of HB248, but the Senate has not yet acted on it.
Among those listed as petitioners for the proposal is Stephanie Stock of Norton, who leads the anti-vaccine group Ohio Advocates for Medical Freedom, which has lobbied for HB248.
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