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Utah lawmakers want to ban the use of vaccine passports in public spaces

SHARE Utah lawmakers want to ban the use of vaccine passports in public spaces

A Salt Lake County Health Department employee prepares a COVID-19 booster shots at the Sanderson Community Center in Taylorsville on Nov. 9, 2022. Lawmakers on Monday passed a bill to ban vaccine passports in public spaces or businesses.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The COVID-19 pandemic may be in the rearview for many Americans, but state lawmakers are still working to stop businesses from enacting vaccine requirements for customers or their employees.

The Utah House of Representatives on Monday passed a bill that would ban the use of vaccine passports — with some exceptions for health care and other industries — and prevent discrimination based on "immunity status." A nearly identical bill came close to passing both chambers of the Legislature last year, but lawmakers ran out of time to approve it on the last night of the session.

Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, said his bill, HB131, is intended to protect people's private medical information, by barring the implementation of vaccine passports in businesses and preventing government entities from imposing vaccine mandates on citizens.

"It's basically designed to reestablish what HIPAA laws are already saying," he told the House on Monday. "Do you remember 2017, when you would sneeze and somebody would say 'bless you'? This is what this is doing, it's getting us back to those days, to make sure that our personal, protected information ... is protected."

Brooks said that privacy has been standard practice when it comes to medical information, but said the pandemic changed that.

"Somehow, for the last few years, the pandemic caused a lot of fear," he said. "People decided those laws were kind of fuzzy."

Brooks said his bill allows exceptions for businesses that work or contract with hospitals or similar industries.

Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, who is a physician, thanked Brooks for including the exemptions, saying it's a "good change" for the health care economy.

HB131 passed mostly along partly lines — with Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, as the only Democrat in support — and now heads to the Senate.