Several Wisconsin lawmakers recently opposed the idea of a government implemented vaccine passport.
Vaccine passports provide documented proof as to whether or not an individual received a COVID-19 vaccine, and would be used to grant access to buildings or events if the government were to enforce the use of them.
Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce president Tim Sheehy voiced his opposition to the idea.
“You’ve got to think about this as a customer-facing answer to this,” Sheehy said in an interview with WKOW. “And I don’t want my customers feeling uncomfortable, and I don’t want to create two classes of customers.”
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Sheehy is far from the only official opposed to vaccine passports. Sen. Rob Stafsholt, R-Wisconsin, argued government restrictions based on vaccine status would be a direct overreach of power. Stafsholt described three distinct proposals which lawmakers who oppose passports put forth as alternatives.
Stafsholt authored the first of these three proposals which suggests the government cannot impose the use of vaccine passports on companies and individuals.
“I think that’s not the role of the government to dictate where people can and can’t go based on a shot,” Stafsholt said.
Stafsholt said he views receiving a vaccine as a personal health decision, and he disapproves of a government vaccination mandate. But, Stafsholt said he does not take issue with a private business refusing customers based on their vaccine status.
Stafsholt said proposals aimed at killing vaccine passport requirements similar to his go an extra step and prevent businesses from using vaccine passports.
“I would emphasize that I believe that my bill, which regulates the government, the key to that is letting individuals and businesses make the decision for [themselves],” Stafsholt said.
Stafsholt said his bill prioritizes the rights of both individuals to not vaccinate themselves but also the rights of businesses to protect themselves from harm.
Sen. Steve Nass, R-Wisconsin, agreed that restrictions based on vaccinations should be left up to the business owners. Nass said he believes strong opposition would emerge if the government tried to impose vaccine passports, citing a potential infringement on personal privacy as his rationale
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“Every business is different. For one company it might make sense within their market model,” Nass said. “In some places it may seem more like a bureaucratic ideal than a market benefit.”
Nass said he believes vaccine passports are best adopted on an individual level, especially because the amount of time each business may require restrictions inside will vary depending on the establishment. Nass said some businesses may need long-term restrictions, whereas others may not.
A universal time frame to lift restrictions would become a source of controversy if a government mandate were to be implemented, Nass said.
“Because of the way our system is set up it takes time for the government to undo things that are obsolete,” Nass explained.
Nass said he does not favor what he described as a one size fits all government mandate. Nass argued because business owners are the first line of safety for their employees and customers, they should serve as the primary decision-makers regarding COVID-19 restriction policies.
Nass said he views private businesses as fully capable of regulating COVID-19 on their own.
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“I think we make a mistake when we underestimate the intelligence of individuals and the nimbleness of the market,” Nass said.
Stafsholt said while the government should not, in his view, make decisions on vaccine passports, leadership can continue to make public health recommendations and keep citizens up-to-date on vaccine rollout.
Stafsholt said he believes after making recommendations and providing information, the government should allow individual citizens and businesses to determine their course of action.
“I think [strict government restrictions] should not happen,” Stafsholt said. “That is what we call a government overreach. I just think that’s too far. I think it is a personal violation of their freedom. If they choose not to put the vaccine in their body, I’m going to respect them.”
Stafsholt and Nass’ proposed bills are currently under evaluation.