California lawmakers are considering a bill that would impose a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate at all workplaces, Politico reported Friday.
Democratic Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks introduced the bill, claiming that the only way for the pandemic to end is by mandating vaccination.
“The pathway to endemic, for us to get back to some sense of normalcy, is through vaccines,” she told Politico.
Wicks' bill would impose severe financial penalties on businesses that do not comply and is all but certain to face opposition as Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) begins to lift other pandemic restrictions. The governor is set to ease masking requirements and indoor social distancing restrictions as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have fallen since the Omicron variant surge this winter.
Although fewer cases and hospitalizations are encouraging, Wicks said her bill is necessary because the pandemic remains unpredictable.
“It has seemed like things are moving in the right direction many times before with this virus, and yet there we were with another wave,” Wicks said.
The vaccine mandate legislation is the latest proposal to come from the state legislature's Vaccine Work Group, a caucus of lawmakers formed to advance bills intended to mitigate COVID-19 spread and combat vaccine misinformation.
Other bills introduced by members of the vaccine caucus include a bill that would allow any child 12 or older to consent to receive an FDA-approved vaccine without parental say-so and a statewide school vaccine mandate with no exemptions.
According to Politico, Wicks considered introducing the vaccine mandate bill last year but never followed through with her idea. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked President Joe Biden's federal vaccine mandate on businesses with more than 100 employees from taking effect, she says state lawmakers have an opportunity to act.
Workplaces of all sizes, as well as contractors, would fall under the mandate. Exemptions would only be permitted for religious or medical reasons. New hires would have to show proof of having at least one vaccine dose by their start date and show documentation of a second dose within 45 days, according to Politico.
Wicks' bill would not include a testing option for workers who do not want to get vaccinated, addressing concerns about who would pay for the tests. If the bill passes, California workers at every business would be given an ultimatum: Get jabbed or get fired.
The Democrat also said lawmakers are considering vaccine legislation that would affect customers entering businesses.