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Montana 2021 Legislature

Montana House Rejects Two Bills To Relax Immunization Requirements, Moves One Forward

Jennifer Carlson gives a statement while holding notes on the Montana House floor.
Montana Public Affairs Network
Montana Republican Rep. Jennifer Carlson introduces House Bill 334 during a House floor session on Feb. 25, 2021.

The Montana House Thursday voted down two bills that propose loosening vaccine requirements and endorsed a third.

House Bill 415 would’ve prevented state agencies from refusing service to those who are unvaccinated and would’ve banned employers from requiring vaccination as a job requirement. Sponsor and Manhattan Republican Rep. Jennifer Carlson said the proposal addresses a constitutional rights issue.

“What it does is what I promised my constituents that I would do when I got here, and that is fight for their individual liberty," Carlson said.

More than a dozen House Republicans joined Democrats to reject the bill on a tied 50 to 50 vote.

Republicans expressed concern the bill would’ve impacted child care facility funding or National Guard operations in Montana.

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Laurie Bishop of Livingston said the bill would’ve limited the rights of private business owners, including child care providers.

“Preventing them from setting the standards of care and the requirements for employment that match the mission of keeping kids safe,” Bishop said.

Lawmakers also voted down House Bill 332 by a 57 to 43 margin. The bill would’ve widened school immunization requirements.

A third vaccine related policy did win House support. House Bill 334 would expand which health care providers can approve medical exemptions for vaccines required at school and tighten immunization privacy provisions. It’s also sponsored by Rep. Carlson.

“It makes it very clear that a student’s immunization records are protected and they are private," Carlson said.

The bill is expected to pass a final vote in the House later this week.

Kevin Trevellyan is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America statehouse reporter.