Utah Republicans used to recoil in horror at the mere prospect of governments telling private businesses how they can operate, extolling the virtues of limited government and free enterprise. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned that political axiom on its head.
On Tuesday, a House committee approved HB60 which blocks private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination for customers and employees.
That’s currently not what’s happening in Utah, but Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, warned he did not want the state to morph into a liberal state like he’s seen in Washington, New York and California.
“If you go to the movies or the grocery store you have to show your ID and your vaccine passport. It just rubs me wrong that, in America, we have to show papers,” Brooks said.
Brooks’ bill also blocks governments from requiring employees from being vaccinated or providing proof of vaccination but does make some exceptions for public and higher education and some hospitals that could lose federal funding.
Supporters spoke of the worry that unvaccinated people would be treated like “second-class citizens,” while opponents said it was an unacceptable intrusion by the government.
In one of the few real-world examples brought up during debate, Brooks was asked how this bill might affect the Utah Jazz, who currently require proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test for fans.
“They would not be able to do that. They could take temperatures, require negative tests or a myriad of other things, but they could not ask about vaccine status,” Brooks explained.
Coincidentally, the Jazz announced they would drop the proof of vaccine requirement as the bill was being debated.
But the encroachment of government into the affairs of private businesses made some Republicans on the committee uneasy.
“I don’t want the government telling me what to do. I don’t want the government telling me how to do my business. This is the government saying you have to let everybody into your business, you have no choice in who you let in or keep out,” Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, said.
“This doesn’t feel like small government. This feels like micromanaging private relationships. That’s where I really start to have a problem,” Rep. Tim Hawkes, R-Centerville added.
The bill was approved on a 9-4 vote.