Georgia state senators have voted to make permanent a soon-to-expire law that bans government agencies from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or “vaccine passports,” as a condition of service.
In May 2022, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law a measure that made it illegal for state and local governments—including public school districts—to demand proof of COVID-19 vaccination from their staff members or the public with whom they do business.
As a compromise with pro-vaccine Democrats, the bill was amended to have an expiration date of June 30, 2023.
In a party-line 31–21 vote, the Georgia state Senate on Feb. 7 approved SB 1, a measure designed to make the ban permanent.
“No agency shall require proof of COVID-19 vaccination of any person as a condition of providing any service or access to any facility, issuing any license, permit, or other type of authorization, or performing any duty of such agency,” a part of the bill reads.
Like its predecessor, the bill doesn’t apply to workplaces where employees must be vaccinated to avoid violating the terms of contracts they have with the federal government.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Republican state Sen. Greg Dolezal, said the ban offers “important protections” shielding Georgians from blanket government mandates, including ensuring that no child can be forced to take the COVID-19 vaccine to attend public school.
“Government should not deny services to citizens based on COVID-19 vaccination status,” Dolezal said.
The bill now moves to the state House of Representatives.
Kemp, who has touted his anti-mandate stance, is expected to sign SB 1 if it gets to his desk.
“We ensured Georgia does not and will not have any COVID-19 vaccine mandates,” Kemp said on Twitter ahead of last year’s gubernatorial election. “This continues to be the case as we move further beyond the pandemic.”
While an expiration date approaches for the state’s vaccine passport ban, there are still many years before parents in the Peach State have to worry about their children being forced to wear a mask at school.
In March 2022, Kemp signed into law a bill that allows parents to decide whether their children wear masks at school. This law, dubbed “Unmask Georgia Students Act,” won’t expire until June 30, 2027.
“Parents are the best decision-makers when it comes to the health and education of their children,” state Rep. Lauren McDonald III, a Republican who presented the bill in the lower chamber, said at that time. “This legislation ensures that those rights are not infringed by misguided policies.”