House COVID plan requires vaccine recipients be notified if aborted fetuses were used in development

Chamber passes plan, bill axing Whitmer admin. powers

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Republicans who control the Michigan House approved a plan Thursday that would require recipients of a COVID-19 vaccine administered using funds from the supplemental to be informed if development of the vaccine utilized aborted fetal tissue.

House Bill 4019 allocates a total of $868.5 million of federal funds – significantly less than the $3.6 billion a Democratic plan would have allocated.

Instead of allocating the funds all at once, as Democrats proposed, Republicans in the House plan to break them into quarterly supplementals.

As a result, the plan approved Thursday includes just $143.7 million to support testing and contact tracing and $22.5 million for COVID-19 vaccines, compared to the full $574.8 million for testing and contact tracing and $90.2 million for COVID-19 vaccines that the federal government approved and that the Democratic plan would have allocated.

The plan would require anyone receiving a vaccine administered using funds from the supplemental to be “provided with information or informed if and in what manner the development of the vaccine utilized aborted fetal tissue or human embryonic stem cell derivation lines.”

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The two vaccines approved for emergency use from Pfizer and Moderna do not contain aborted fetal cells, but tests were performed to ensure they worked using fetal cell lines.

Additionally, the funds would be barred from being used to vaccinate an individual who is getting the vaccine under a mandatory vaccination program “of his or her employer or of state government.”

Democrats criticized the bill as not going far enough and offered a number of amendments, all of which were immediately defeated without a vote.

“We are living in an unprecedented time, and unprecedented times demand unprecedented leadership,” said state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn), who offered an amendment to increase funding for testing and contact tracing. “It was just a few months ago that many of my colleagues complained about the number of tests that were being conducted and about the state of our contact tracing program. Now, when the opportunity presents itself to lead on these fronts, those same members are ready to vote no. I fail to see any logic behind that decision making.”

The bill – which also allocates $510.6 million to food assistance program benefits and $165.2 million to emergency rental and utility assistance – passed the House 58-50 and now goes to the Senate.

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Michigan has more than 565,000 COVID cases and almost 14,800 deaths.

HB 4047, which allocates $565.5 million of state funds to unemployment benefits and tax relief, passed the House 59-49.

HB  4048 – which releases $2.1 billion of aid for schools – passed the House 58-51 on Thursday but would only go into effect if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also signs HB 4049, which cedes the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ power to close schools and halt athletics. That bill also passed the House, 57-52.

Additionally, $363 million of the funds would only be available to districts who return to in-person instruction five days a week for the remainder of the academic year by Feb. 15, excluding only previously scheduled days when school is not in session.

State Rep. Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park) criticized the requirement, saying that “this mandate flies in the face of required physical distancing guidelines in order to safely reopen in-person learning.”

“This is about reality,” Weiss added. “The reality is that it is impossible for all of our school districts to be able to offer 100% in person learning to every single student within the next 11 days.”

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High schools have been allowed to return to in-person instruction since December, while colleges were allowed to reopen last month.

Under a bipartisan plan approved by the Republican-led Legislature and signed by Whitmer last year, local districts have the authority to determine whether they resume in-person instruction while the state maintains the ability to close school buildings.

Whitmer has encouraged schools to return to in-person instruction by March 1 and announced Thursday that contact sports could resume starting Feb. 8 with some health guidelines in place.

The bills passed Thursday had the support of House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare).

“This Legislature is committed to taking the time to listen and to consider others’ input. We understand the importance of not acting unilaterally and we value diversity of thought—and our hope is that the governor will feel the same and will reverse course to help the tens of thousands of small business employees out of work, people waiting for vaccines, and parents and schoolchildren who have been impacted by the state government’s missteps,” Wentworth said in a statement.