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Senator Holly Thompson Rehder’s Legislative Column for Oct. 5, 2021

Up to You, Not the Government

Over the past several weeks, we’ve heard a lot of talk coming out Washington, D.C., regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. First, it was announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular testing and other requirements. Then came the news of a sweeping new mandate for private employers with 100 or more employees to vaccinate their workers or face fines of $14,000 per violation. Beyond the financial harm to businesses, employees face the real possibility of being fired for simply refusing to take the vaccine.

It’s safe to say I don’t think this is the right path for our country to be on. To me, America is about freedom and opportunity – not government mandates and penalties.

While I understand the desire to put an end to the pandemic, is this really the way we want to do it? By risking people’s jobs or even their entire careers over something as personal as whether or not to receive a vaccine? Already, businesses and professional organizations have warned these kinds of mandates could backfire and incentivize people to leave the workforce rather than receive a vaccine. And when you look at the critical role some of these employees play in our hospitals, nursing homes, manufacturing facilities and more, are we sure we want to encourage them to leave their jobs? Just as the mandates may make it harder to keep employees, it may also create one more barrier to finding new ones. At a time when many businesses are already struggling, do we really want to make it even harder for them to find qualified workers?

I think the answer from folks in Missouri is a resounding “no.” That’s why I proudly signed onto a letter sent to the governor in support of calling an extra session to stop these mandates from hurting Missourians and businesses. While these federal mandates have not gone into effect yet (and likely face a host of legal challenges when and if they do), many businesses in our district have started moving towards this requirement in anticipation of the federal rules being codified. That is why we must act now. We need to come back to the Capitol and pass a bill similar to one enacted in Montana that prohibits discrimination based on vaccine status.

At the end of the day, I believe vaccines are not something the government should be coercing people into taking. Rather than punishing them through lost jobs and lost wages, I believe the best course of action is to encourage people to talk to their health care provider. They can help you decide whether or not the vaccine is right for you. Because that’s how health care decisions should be: up to you, not the government. Every little inch of our freedoms that we hand over, is an inch that we may never see again.

Contact Me

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Thompson Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to Holly.Rehder@senate.mo.gov or visit www.senate.mo.gov/Rehder.