Updated: Mar 11, 2022
Yesterday we reported on the changes to HB 28 that was heard on Wednesday, which is primarily a vaccine exemption bill. The House (almost assuredly House Leadership) forced Rep. Savannah Maddox to gut the portion of her bill that would ban private employer/business vaccine mandates. HB 28 did pass the House yesterday and heads to the Senate. Most of the logic, as Republicans have suddenly found an uber libertarian streak, is that they don't want to burden on the private sector, they don't want to tell business what to do, but instead allow that business to put burdens on the people.
Now skip ahead to yesterday HB 31 was heard in committee, sponsored by Representative Attica Scott - D; Jefferson 41. We actually support this bill, what it would accomplish is require businesses not to discriminate based on hair styles, this deals mostly with hair of Black individuals, as they have certain needs and requirements culturally and health wise regarding their hair styling. The bill did leave in place legitimately articulated needs for professions like health care, law enforcement, and the food industry. We have no problem with this bill, and it should pass, as long as it doesn't interfere with the job or the professionalism of the employee, anyone should be able to have their hair the way they want it. The bill passed out of committee with mostly yes votes, one no vote and a couple of passes.
We will get to the no and pass votes here in a moment, but we would just like to point out that the House seems to have no problem telling businesses what they must do in regard to something concerning an employee's hair, but they do have a problem with telling employers how to treat their employees regarding that employees' sincere concerns, be it medically or contentiously about vaccination. While the hair issue is a legitimate issue, and in some cases some people have wrongly used it as an out to discriminate against Blacks, we believe that the issue of hair itself pales in comparison to a serious objection to a medical procedure being forced upon someone in order to obtain or retain employment.
Now to breakdown the no vote which was given by Rep. Jennifer Decker, unfortunately she was either misinformed or uninformed and boiled this discussion down to a violation of a person's property rights over someone else's personal preference. The hair issue is not about preference but culture and health. Second, she made the point that the Civil Rights Act deals with immutable characteristics. Fortunately, a representative from the ACLU pointed out (hey when they are right, we will give credit) that those immutable characteristics are the floor not the ceiling. Take for instance someone's religion, that is not necessarily immutable, that is something that can be changed. Should we force people change religions since it is not immutable to accommodate an employer's preference of hiring only a certain religion. Nonetheless Rep. Decker was unswayed in her ignorance, but we will give her credit, she was at least not a hypocrite, she kept the same argument as the majority of the House of not wanting to unduly burden businesses for protecting the rights of the people.
Quickly we want to just take note of one of the pass votes. Rep. Maddox was on this committee, and she registered a pass vote. We do not have any insight into her pass vote, nor did she offer any when she made it. However, we believe she noticed the same thing we have noted here in this piece and that her pass vote was a silent protest. She could have made a stink about it but opted not to, as this was not the place and time.
Finally, we would like to point out that there was one Representative that couldn't just let the race card alone. We freely admit that this hair issue might be a way some people with a wink and a nod use as an excuse not to hire certain people. But Rep. Nima Kulkarni - D; Jefferson 40 had to take the opportunity to point out the false narrative that this country was and is systemically racist. With her comments she took a legitimate issue and dirtied it, and the very fact that this bill passed out of committee with a Republican Majority nullifies her point. It was divisive and unnecessary.
So, sometimes the government can tell business what to do, and other times they cannot, the logic for when and why escapes us at the moment though.