Peninsula lawmakers introduce bill to block vaccination requirements

man at a desk before a microphone with his nose visible over the top of his mask
State Rep. Christopher Kurka of Wasilla during a floor speech on March 15, 2021 seconds before he removed his mask. (Gavel Alaska)

Several Alaska Republican legislators have signed on to a bill defending what they call “COVID-19 immunization rights.”

Reps. Ben Carpenter of Nikiski, Sarah Vance of Homer and Chris Kurka of Wasilla are sponsoring House Bill 175.

RELATED: Alaska executives, employers wrestle with whether to mandate, incentivize or encourage COVID-19 shots

The legislation would bar private businesses and public entities from requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment unless the requirements are authorized by federal law.

A few employers in the state already require vaccination among their employees, though they’re the minority. Attorneys say vaccine mandates are a legal gray area, particularly since the shots are only authorized on an emergency basis.

But no lawsuits have popped up, yet.

The legislation fits into a national campaign by conservative lawmakers to push back, often preemptively, against vaccine mandates. Republican legislators in Ohio introduced a similar bill last week, and several states are considering so-called “Vaccine Bill of Rights” legislation.

Alaska’s proposed bill would also block businesses and public entities from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access public areas, services or benefits. That includes public schools and University of Alaska campuses.

The legislation would not be effective any time the governor declares a state of emergency.