The passage of a new Senate bill could mean that Rhode Islanders who opt against getting the COVID-19 vaccine will face $50 fines monthly and have to pay double what they would otherwise pay in personal income taxes.
The bill, which was proposed by Providence Democratic state Senator Samuel W. Bell, has drawn harsh, and even vulgar criticism on Twitter.
“The reason I introduced the bill is we have a crisis with the pandemic,” Bell said on Wednesday. “Thousands of Rhode Islanders have died. I’ve had really painful calls from constituents who can’t go into the store because they’re immune-compromised, who have lost loved ones to this pandemic, who are really ill and not fully recovered, suffering long-term effects.”
Bell added that his 4-month-old son has an interstitial lung disease, which puts him at risk of serious illness or possibly death if he contracts a respiratory infection.
“My son’s condition has made me feel more compassionate and ready for the heavy level of abuse I knew I’d receive,” he continued. “I love my son more than I can put into words, and the idea of him not being able to interact with people and to go to school – those things terrify me. And I’m not the only parent of a child with a serious immune condition.”
Bell’s legislation has prompted Senator Jessica de la Cruz, a Republican of North Smithfield, to put together an email campaign to oppose the measure.
De la Cruz, who serves as the Senate minority whip, wrote an email to her supporters on Tuesday, noting that people across the state have been asking her about the legislation.
“I have not, nor will I ever support, legislation that coerces Rhode Islanders into making medical decisions or face steep financial damages,” she said in the email.
“I hear my constituents and others around the state loud and clear – this is dangerous legislation and sends the message that our government doesn’t trust you to make the right choice for you and your family. This is an unconscionable overreach of legislative powers.”
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