Michigan House Oversight Committee approves "vaccine passport" ban bill on party lines
The Michigan House Overnight Committee met on Thursday morning to discuss a bill that would ban the state government's use of a vaccine passport. This follows last Thursday's hearing, wherein some speakers promoted conspiracy theories and misinformation.
Committee Chair Steven Johnson (R-Wayland) presented changes to House Bill 4667 today, including exempting the CDC immunization card from the definition of passport.The bill's definition of a vaccine passport is "a document or system created or used for the primary purpose of diminishing or enlarging an individual’s civil and political rights, privileges, and capacities based on the individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status." The bill specifically prevents a governmental entity from issuing such a document.
Representative Julie Brixie (D-Okemos) said that in theory, the CDC immunization card could fall under that category.
"The problem is, the governmental entity that issued the card is the county health department, but inevitably, CDC vaccination cards are going to be required for entry to certain establishments, which is what the whole vaccine passport is that this bill is trying to prohibit, is to prevent someone from requiring a vaccine passport," she said. Basically, she asked, if the government is issuing the vaccine card, does it then violate the law if someone else uses it to restrict access to an establishment?
Johnson argued that the primary purpose of the CDC card, upon its issue to a vaccinated purpose, was not to limit or expand rights and freedoms, and that the bill was narrowly tailored to only address government entities.
"If that card is being issued to people for the primary purpose of diminishing and enlarging individual civil and political rights privileges and capacities, then yeah, I’d have a problem with that card. Now I would guess that the vast majority of people that is not the primary purpose of that card, the primary purpose of that card is for medical records," he said. Johnson said other bills would address whether private entities could restrict access based on vaccination status.
Representative David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) pointed out to his Republican colleagues that so far, no state agency or any part of the state government has indicated that they would pursue the use of a vaccine passport.
"I think that properly limited government looks at things that are in front of it that it should be taking action on, and I think that we should be exercising legislative restraint. If the governor proposed something, then we would absolutely be ripe for discussion," LaGrand said.
He made similar arguments the week before, when he asked if the Legislature should pass a bill banning Bigfoot from the Capitol, when it was unclear if the cryptid did or did not exist.
The committee voted to approve the bill 6-3 along party lines.
After the vote, Representative Stephanie Young (D-Detroit) said that the issue of vaccination was one that was very personal to her, coming from Detroit where COVID-19 related deaths were especially high.
"When I would go places and not see people wearing masks, I felt like my civil liberties were infringed upon, quite honestly," she said. "I am in agreement in that we should be able to get the vaccine or not get the vaccine, that's up to you! But I also feel like when we're dealing with a deadly pandemic, and we know that something as simple as this can help prevent it, then we should do it."