Seven reps not complying with House vaccine mandate
Unvaccinated lawmakers can keep working remotely
THERE ARE SEVEN state representatives who have not yet provided proof of vaccination or requested a religious or medical exemption from the vaccine mandate imposed by the House of the Representatives.
Ana Vivas, a spokesperson for the House, said in a statement that members who are not in compliance “are required to continue working remotely, including participating in session, until they are in compliance.”
The Massachusetts House voted in September to impose a vaccine mandate on House members and staff. The 131-28 vote came after an intense debate, during which a number of Republicans voiced strong disagreement with the policy.
The names of those who are out of compliance are confidential. But, as of Wednesday, Vivas said in a statement that 96 percent of members and 98 percent of employees have provided proof of vaccination or requested a religious or medical accommodation.
The mandate does not allow employees or members to take regular COVID tests in place of getting a vaccine. But if someone is not vaccinated, they can remain employed and work remotely.
The House order does include a provision that would allow for the reassignment of staff away from a member who has not proven they are vaccinated or received an exemption.
House Republican Leader Brad Jones said he believes any member who provides proof of vaccination, receives an exemption, or works remotely is complying with the policy. So if one includes representatives who have decided to continue working remotely, Jones said, “I don’t know of anyone who’s not complying with that.”
Jones said he is not aware of any situation where a member’s staff is being taken away from them because they have not complied with the mandate.
Jones said he thinks members can continue to be effective working remotely, and most lawmakers have a “buddy system” where a colleague can pick up supplies from their office if necessary. “Some representatives have worked remotely for the better part of a year and a half,” he said.
Rep. Peter Durant, a Spencer Republican who introduced a bill that would have prohibited businesses and public buildings from imposing vaccine mandates, said he does not know if any members are unvaccinated or if some simply did not want to provide their status. “Hopefully there’s a resolution for those who decide not to turn their information in,” Durant said.
Durant said that many lawmakers have been working remotely for more than a year, and in-person sessions have been sparsely attended. “At least two-thirds of members have done their job from home,” Durant said. “Is it possible? Yeah. Can they be effective? I think so. Is it ideal? No.”
The Senate and the executive branch also have vaccine mandates in place.
In the Senate, Senate President Karen Spilka said in an email to senators and staff that, as of October 18, 96 percent of senators and staff were fully vaccinated. The rest were in the process of becoming fully vaccinated, had received an exemption, or were talking to human resources about the exemption process. Spilka did not break out members and staff separately.In the executive branch, unions representing the state police and correctional officers tried unsuccessfully to challenge the vaccine mandate in court. As of October 27, 93.7 percent of employees (39,197 people) were fully vaccinated or had received a religious or medical exemption. Another 5.1 percent (2,138 people) were in progress – either their compliance was still being reviewed by an agency or they were awaiting a decision on an exemption.
There were 362 state employees suspended due to non-compliance, and 141 who resigned or were fired.