Schools, public agencies that require vaccinations could be sued under Louisiana proposal

Bill’s author originally wanted to make such requirements a crime

By: - May 31, 2022 2:32 pm
Louisiana House votes to ban ‘vaccine passports’ that don’t exist yet

A Department of Health and Human Services employee holds a COVID-19 vaccine record card Nov. 13, 2020, in Washington D.C. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

Public schools and government agencies that require vaccinations could face lawsuits from anyone who’s barred entry for failing to comply, according to a proposal advancing in the Louisiana Legislature.

House Bill 54, authored by Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, advanced from a state Senate committee Tuesday by a 4-2 vote. Bagley, a retired educator, chairs the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Originally, Bagley’s legislation would have made it a crime to deny entry based on vaccination status in Louisiana with a fine of up to $1,000 with the possibility of up to six months in jail time. The bill has since been amended for vaccination status discrimination to be only a cause for civil action and not a crime.

It also applied to restaurants, hotels and other areas of the private sector until the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and other lawmakers raised concerns.

“I had COVID. I had the shot. I’m not an (anti-vaccination),” Bagley said Tuesday to the Senate Judiciary C Committee. “I shouldn’t have to tell you whether I’ve had the vaccine or not. I don’t have to have the flu vaccine or measles or any of those things.”

The Louisiana Department of Health lists the measles vaccination as a requirement for students to attend K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions, but parents or guardians can submit a waiver to exclude their children from the requirement.

When asked who could be sued under his bill, Bagley said the employee who asks for someone’s vaccination status would be liable. Judiciary C chair Sen. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, later said he interpreted that the entity that the employee works for would be liable, and Bagley agreed.

“For example, the way I read it is, if LSU has a policy where you need the COVID vaccine to get in the stadium, if they’re not allowing people to get in the stadium, the proper party to take your grievance with would be the university,” Foil said.

Sen. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, said he was concerned about the fiscal impact Bagley’s proposal could have on cities such as New Orleans that don’t have money set aside for legal damages.

Bagley’s bill goes next to the Senate floor. If approved, it would need to return to the House to approve the amendments. Representatives narrowly approved the legislation in a 59-26 vote last month. Bills need 53 votes to advance from the House.

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is a former Louisiana Illuminator reporter. Prior to working with the Illuminator, Canicosa worked for Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon. Canicosa earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.

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