Monday, we wrote about a proposed bill in Utah that would allow firefighters combatting fires in states other than their own to collect workers’ compensation benefits if they were injured on the job. Legislators there are running into significant headwinds, in the form of paranoid accusations that they are really establishing paramilitary services to enslave people and violate the rights of citizens.

Today, Idaho legislators are finding resistance to a proposed bill that would make employees eligible for workers’ compensation when they experience illness related to employer mandated Covid-19 vaccines. House Bill 464, co-sponsored by House Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks, R- Meridian, and Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa left committee and advanced to the House floor earlier this week.

It appears that Idaho employees are already eligible to receive workers’ comp for injuries related to workplace vaccines, but there has been (no surprise) massive confusion when related to Covid. Proponents say HB 464 would eliminate any confusion regarding eligible benefits.

Of course, it will be no surprise that some people oppose this bill. 

Some testified against it on the basis that, by providing protection for employees, the state would be affirming the ability of employers to violate the rights of Idaho citizens. They say employers would be free to mandate these vaccines and force employees to get them against their will.

One citizen, saying thousands of state residents have suffered negative reactions and some have died, testified that it “doesn’t seem like it respects the individual rights of the people of Idaho. “This bill doesn’t fix [anything]. You have to fix the system that damages citizens in the first place, not compensate them for damage after it’s done.” 

Another called it a “crumbs bill,” saying, “It’s giving our rights to government and then begging for some crumbs back. We’re either free people with inherent rights, or we’re slaves who have to come and beg to get some of our freedoms back.”

These arguments aren’t just native to Utah and Idaho. This is all indicative of a fractured society where finding common ground is increasingly difficult. Many mistakes have been made during the pandemic, with the most egregious result being the deterioration of trust between government and citizens of this country. Distinct camps and battle lines have been drawn, and angry rhetoric by government representatives and media pundits, intended to influence and persuade, have only widened the rift between opposing camps. This makes managing legislative change, even simple efforts, much more difficult.

There is little doubt that employers have become the “pincushions of solution” during the pandemic. Many states immediately required them to provide benefits without question if one of their employees contracted Covid – even if they might have contracted it elsewhere. It is the first time that employers (and the workers’ compensation industry) became responsible for a commonly communicable disease. Employers were an easy target when politicians were desperate to navigate a path to payment for the medical issues that were occurring.

Vaccines, however, are a slightly different story. Employers have generally long been accountable for negative reactions for illness that results from their actions, and that includes requiring certain vaccines. The Idaho bill simply clarifies that if an employer requires their worker to do something in order to keep their job, that employer is responsible should illness or injury result from that demand. That really isn’t about violating rights. It is ultimately designed to protect them. 

And it makes the employer responsible for their actions; something the broader Covid mandates distinctly did not do.

That is my opinion, of course. But it should be yours as well. As I have often stated, everyone has the right to my opinion. But it is ok to disagree with me. I can’t force you to be right.

I have been clear that I oppose government mandates. Employer mandates, however, are another issue. That is largely, in my opinion, between the employer and their workforce. If they do require something, however, they certainly should not be able to escape responsibility for the outcome. To that end there is much more employer culpability for vaccine reaction than there would be for contracting Covid in the first place. 

All of that is moot, however. We have largely become a nation divided, no longer able to discuss our differences without accusations and anger. This is becoming more evident in the legislative process, as trust in established systems has been severely damaged as a result of the pandemic. Legislators now simply looking to protect workers find themselves the target of denunciation over alleged intent that does not exist.

Meanwhile, in Idaho HB 464 heads to the House floor. And the battle in a nation divided rages on.

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