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A bill banning vaccine passports cleared the state House of Representatives on Wednesday, even though it faces Gov. Tom Wolf’s promise to veto it once it reaches his desk.
Senate Bill 618 prevents public entities from requiring proof of vaccination akin to New York’s Excelsior Pass, a mobile app that provides digital proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or negative test using a QR code that is connected to the state’s vaccine registry and the databases of several testing companies.
The Department of Health said earlier this year that such a policy was never under consideration in Pennsylvania.
But that didn’t stop Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-Jacobus, from proposing the legislation anyway – or the upper chamber from amending it to prevent the Secretary of Health from mandating social distancing, universal masking or stay-at-home orders ever again.
“The state has yet to prove it can manage and handle personal health care information as evidenced by the ongoing debacle of the third-party entity hired by the Department of Health that mismanaged contact tracing data of adults and children,” Phillips-Hill said Wednesday. “A government-issued vaccine passport is a bridge too far, especially in light of how the state’s contact tracing program failed more than 72,000 Pennsylvanians and their very personal health care data.”
Wolf’s administration believes the secretary of health is afforded specific emergency powers under the state’s Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 . The two constitutional amendments approved by voters last month only limit the governor’s emergency authority, but do nothing to prevent the secretary of health from imposing orders stemming from a public health emergency, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, said the administration’s “expansive view” of the DPCL “runs contrary to the law’s intent and its plain language.”
“Among the other good provisions in this bill, Senate Bill 618 would clarify the language of the Disease Prevention and Control Law to ensure an unelected bureaucrat – the secretary of Health – cannot upend the lives of Pennsylvanians who are well,” he said.
“It is a logical extension of the action we took a few weeks ago to end the COVID-19 disaster […]
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