Lawmakers advance measure to ban vaccine passports on Louisiana driver’s licenses

(The Center Square) – A Louisiana state representative wants to ban the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) from including vaccination status on driver’s licenses, though some say the move is unnecessary.

The House voted 58-23 to approve House Bill 232, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Edmonston, R-Gonzales, to prohibit the OMV from including vaccination information or immunity status on driver’s licenses or state ID cards.

The bill also would prevent the OMV from using vaccine status in decisions on issuing or renewing licenses or ID cards.

“This bill is prohibitive, preemptive and proactive,” Edmonston said last week on the House floor. “Overwhelmingly, citizens in my area and some of yours have asked that the driver’s license not become a vaccine passport to be used for any type of medical information.

“This bill keeps the driver’s license for driving purposes only,” she said, noting that blood type is currently the only medical information published on state driver’s licenses and IDs.

Edmonston pointed out that LA Wallet, the state’s digital driver’s license app, allows users to include COVID-19 vaccination status, if they choose.

Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley, questioned Edmonston over the need for HB 232 during the floor debate.

Edmonston confirmed that including vaccination status on state issued driver’s licenses and IDs would require the Legislature to approve a law to allow it, and Stefanski argued Edmonston’s bill does not change that reality.

“I don’t disagree with what you’re doing, I just don’t think the legislation may be necessary,” Stefanski said.

“Then don’t vote for it,” Edmonston shot back.

Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge, implied the legislation may be beneficial in the event the executive branch uses the Administrative Procedures Act to circumvent the Legislature to impose a rule that’s not expressly authorized by lawmakers.

Ivey pointed out LA Wallet allows residents to include vaccination status, something lawmakers never approved.

Others argued HB 232 is “taking a liberty away” from folks who would prefer to include the information on their license.

“I should have the liberty to have on my driver’s license anything I want to,” Rep. Robby Carter, D-Amite, said. “You’re trying to take the privilege of saying I’m immunized away from me by saying I can’t put it on my driver’s license.”

Edmonston countered that the option is available through LA Wallet.

Rep. Marcus Bryant, D-New Iberia, said LA Wallet is not accepted as proof of vaccine status at airports or other venues, while driver’s licenses are accepted as official documents.

“I know what you want, I understand it and I’m voting for your bill, I just wish you would leave the window open or the option open – because we can’t use LA Wallet at the airport, we can’t use it when we’re going through customs, we can’t use it in other states – that we allow it to be put on our license that we have been vaccinated,” he said.

“I would be grateful if you did leave it up to the person,” Bryant said, “but not mandate that any state agency have the authority to do it without that person’s consent.”

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed an identical bill sponsored by Edmonston last year because he argued it “contributes to the false narrative that the COVID-19 vaccines are anything other than safe and incredibly effective.”

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