Zero Tolerance of Vaccine Mandates Approved by New Hampshire Lawmakers

By Alice Giordano
Alice Giordano
Alice Giordano
Alice Giordano is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and New England bureau of The New York Times.
November 17, 2021 Updated: November 18, 2021

In a vote reminiscent of the state’s “Live Free Or Die” motto, New Hampshire lawmakers passed a legislative amendment on Nov. 17 that would prohibit any COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the New England state. 

Reading the measure out loud at a hearing attended by hundreds of people, main sponsor Rep. Rick Ladd (R-NH) stated the amendment provides that “no New Hampshire entity shall compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by anyone who objects to such vaccination for any reason.”

Laura Telerski, a New Hampshire Democrat from Nashua opposed to the proposed ban, called it too broad and premature, especially given the state’s still growing positivity rate.

“This is a medical crisis and to tell medical organizations, or businesses, they are now not allowed to require vaccines—when it’s a life or death situation for many—I think it’s wrong,” Telerski told The Epoch Times.

Ladd said the amendment’s main purpose was to block any federal directive establishing a mandatory vaccine work requirement, but he made it clear it would also protect against any state mandates.

“This unnecessary mandate is trampling state powers and local private businesses; imposing new burden on employers when they can least afford it—it is an infringement on personal rights and making life harder for the unvaccinated who want to work in an economy which already has too few workers,” said Ladd.

The measure was passed by the NH Education Committee by an 11-to-8 vote, the same day state health officials reported nearly a 10 percent spike in active COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire—the state’s highest since testing for the virus began.

To become law, the unconditional COVID-19 vaccine ban has to win approval by the NH House of Representatives, which is expected to vote on it in early January. 

New Hampshire has one of the largest House of Reps in the U.S. government with 400 members. It is currently under Republican control. One Democrat on the NH Education Committee that approved the measure, voted in favor of it.

Telerski said she was especially concerned that the ban would effectively prohibit private entities like daycare centres from enacting their own safety measures regarding the virus.

She pointed out that while New Hampshire’s Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, has supported efforts to ban mandates for public employees, he too has expressed opposition to dictating policy to the private sector.

Last month, Sununu joined what is now up to 26 other state governors, both Republicans and Democrats, in a lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate.

However, Sununu also was embittered by his own NH Executive Council’s vote the same week to reject $22 million worth of federal money to promote the vaccine in the Granite State. 

“You want the government to tell the employers who they can hire and fire … that is completely un-American, sir,” Sununu said to an executive councillor who was questioning the use of the money to promote a vaccine being used to deny employment.

In a surprise twist, the council reversed its vote on Nov. 10 and voted to accept the federal monies in an unscheduled re-vote on the issue, with three of the four Republican councillors leading the change.

The councillors reversed the vote after Sununu agreed to include a nonbinding resolution that condemns vaccine mandates.

Councillor Ted Gatsas, who abstained from the re-vote, saw the resolution as only causing confusion to the state’s position on the issue.

More confusion comes from the University of New Hampshire, a state-run college that has a policy requiring all university employees to be vaccinated because the college is involved in federally-funded contracts. The college has not rescinded it.

Telerski believes it would have been more appropriate for the issue to be brought forward by the state House Labor Committee instead of the Education Committee, because the COVID-19 vaccine is only being mandated in the workplace.

She also noted that the measure was a last-minute amendment to a bill originally proposed to limit the liability of schools and businesses from personal injury related to exposure to COVD-19.

New Hampshire is a lone wolf in the northeast, being the only one of the six New England states to pass legislation against COVID-19 mandates and to also join other states in efforts to block the federally-imposed mandate.

It is the only New England state without a sales or income tax, a mandatory helmet or seatbelt law for adults, and does not mandate car insurance.

New Hampshire adopted its famous “Live Free or Die” motto in 1945, fashioned after a toast given by American Revolutionary War hero and New Hampshire native John Stark, whose full quote was, “Live free or die; death is not the worst of evils.”

 

Alice Giordano is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and New England bureau of The New York Times.