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SC Senate passes bill banning COVID-19 vaccine requirments

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Jeffrey Collins/AP
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AP
South Carolina Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, right, R-Edgefield, moves for the Senate to adjourn as Sen. Tom Corbin, left, R-Travelers Rest, listens on Thursday, March 24, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

The South Carolina Senate has passed a bill that would ban businesses from refusing to serve people who haven't gotten the COVID-19 vaccine and prevent public employers from requiring the shots.

The Senate approved the bill 29-12 on Wednesday. Senators made changes to a House bill which that chamber passed in December, meaning the proposal returns to the House to see if it accepts those changes.

Senators initially put in a large unemployment tax penalty for private businesses that fired unvaccinated workers. But instead they compromised to allow fired workers to collect unemployment benefits, retroactive to the last nine months.

Opponents of the Republican-backed bill questioned why a group that typically says government shouldn't tell businesses what to do is taking up this fight.

Supporters of the bill said they were trying to protect the choice of people who don't want to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

The proposal bans state and local governments and public schools from requiring vaccines for their employers, contractors or students and also says first responders can't be fired for refusing a COVID-19 shot.

The House can either agree to the Senate's changes, sending the bill to Gov. Henry McMaster's desk, or insist on its version of the bill, meaning a small group of House members and senators will have to work on a compromise between the two versions.