Bell cited a poll by a Boston Globe columnist showing 64 percent of Rhode Islanders “support a universal vaccine mandate,” adding that he believes “it’s time for us to pass my mandate bill.”
The legislation (pdf), first introduced by a group of Democratic senators in March, states that all eligible citizens in Rhode Island over the age of 16 who reside, work, or pay personal income taxes are required to get the shot or face two different civil penalties.
Under the policy, those who are eligible for the jab and are under the age of 16 would also be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine “with the responsibility for ensuring compliance falling on all parents or guardians with medical consent powers”—meaning parents or guardians of non-compliant minors are mandated to force children into taking the shot.
Anyone who would violate the order will face a $50 monthly fine and “shall owe twice the amount of personal income taxes as would otherwise be assessed,” the bill states.
In addition, employers who fail to require proof of vaccination from workers and knowingly violate this rule will be forced to pay a penalty of $5,000 per month for each violation.
“It’s really important that we take all of the precautions we can to make sure that everyone in Rhode Island is vaccinated,” Bell told WPRI. “Plenty of people break all sorts of rules and if they get caught they pay a fine. It’s not a particularly severe penalty.”
The legislation has drawn a lot of opposition since it was first introduced last month by a group of Democratic senators: Tiara Mack, Jonathon Acosta, Kendra Anderson, James Seveney, Cynthia Mendes, and Bell.
Republican Rhode Island state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz expressed her view on the bill after people across the state had asked her about it, explaining she believes it unfairly penalizes residents over a personal medical decision.
In a letter to her constituents, she said the legislation has “extraordinary financial penalties” and she would “never support legislation that penalizes a person for making personal medical decisions.”
“I have not, nor will I ever support, legislation that coerces Rhode Islanders into making medical decisions or face steep financial damages,” De La Cruz said. “I hear my constituents and others around the state loud and clear—this is dangerous legislation and sends the message that our government doesn’t trust you to make the right choice for you and your family.”
Bell’s legislation has been referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee for consideration, though de la Cruz said it likely won’t pass.
“This is an unconscionable overreach of legislative powers,” de la Cruz said. “The good news is this legislation has little chance of passing. I won’t rule it out, but I don’t believe it will pass, that said, I’m not taking it for granted, and neither should you.”
From NTD News