News-Miner opinion: As more Alaska employers grapple with whether to require workers to get Covid-19 vaccinations, Alaska Industrial Hardware and its parent company, Bering Straits Native Corp., say their more than 2,000 workers must have the shots by Aug. 1 or go on unpaid leave.
In the wake of that announcement, Nikiski Republican Rep. Ben Carpenter proposed legislation, House Bill 175, to block vaccination mandates by public and private employers.
If approved, Carpenter’s legislation would affect anyone who employs one or more other persons, the state of Alaska, the University of Alaska, the Alaska Railroad and municipalities, school districts and other units of local government.
The bill was referred to the Community and Regional Affairs Committee. Its co-sponsors include Reps. Ron Gillham, R-Kenai; Sarah Vance, R-Homer; Christopher Kurka, R-Wasilla; and, Ken McCarty, R-Eagle River.
Similar legislation, offered earlier by Wasilla Republican Rep. Christopher Kurka, failed.
Our question about Carpenter’s bill is this: Why? When is it ever a good idea for the federal or state government to insinuate itself in the business of business?
The very idea of so-called “vaccination passports” or shots mandates is rife with civil rights questions. Despite that, several states such as Florida and North Dakota have introduced legislation that would bar companies and other businesses from mandating vaccinations. Several more states are mulling the idea.
Government cannot be the be-all, end-all answer every time there is a question. Rather than have Big Brother poking his nose into businesses, why not leave the question of vaccinations and the work place to those who own or work in the work place? Companies are well able to incentivize behavior they want to see from workers and discourage behavior they do not.
After all, the most important questions that must be asked if legislation such as Carpenter’s were passed, is what would be next and where would it end? What new crisis would require government salvation?
The Legislature is facing the end of its session without much in the way of action on issues such as the future of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend and the budget and how to spend $1.25 billion from President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion American Rescue Plan.
The Legislature would better spend its remaining time in Juneau dealing with those issues while leaving the business of business to business.