Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) has signed a bill that bans state and local governments from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for workers after a similar ban expired last month.
The legislation signed Thursday is aimed at defending citizens’ “individual liberty,” Sanders said at a press conference prior to its signing.
The legislation also prohibits COVID-19 vaccinations from being required as a condition of education, or for obtaining a service or licensure, permit or certificate of some kind. Any potential risks and harms associated with the shots must also be recorded and published by the state.
The bill is different from the state’s prior ban on vaccine mandates, which first went into effect in 2021, in that it covers vaccines or immunizations for any subvariants of the coronavirus, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The latest COVID-19 vaccine, which was federally authorized for use this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, is specially designed to reduce major illness and illness from omicron virus variants that are currently circulating.
In total, Sanders signed 11 bills on Thursday. A separate bill she signed restricts the public release of her travel and security records.
That bill, which went into immediate effect, shields details about the security that the governor and other constitutional officers receive. These details include who travels on the State Police airplane and the cost of individual trips.
Sanders argued that it was needed for her and her family’s safety, though some critics said it eliminates government transparency.
State Sen. Bart Hester (R), who co-sponsored the bill, said at Thursday’s press conference that all of the state’s elected government leaders are still able to see the travel receipts through audit. The law also requires the state to file a quarterly report listing the monthly costs of protecting the governor.