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RI bill would punish unvaccinated with doubled income tax, monthly fine

Stacy Vasquez, CEO of the Birmingham VA receives the COVID-19 vaccine. (Joe Songer | al.com/TNS)
April 20, 2022

Democrats in the State of Rhode Island General Assembly are pushing legislation that would mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all residents. Those who don’t comply — including parents of unvaccinated children — would be punished with doubled income tax and a $50 monthly fine.

The bill states that everyone 16 years of age and older “who is eligible for immunization against COVID-19” and who lives, works, or pays personal income taxes in the State of Rhode Island must take the COVID-19 shots.

Rhode Island residents who are under the age of 16 and are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine must also get the jab, with the “responsibility for ensuring compliance falling on all parents or guardians.”

Anyone who violates the vaccine mandate will be fined $50 per month and will owe “twice the amount of personal income taxes as would otherwise be assessed.”

In an additional effort to force compliance, the bill compels employers to require proof of the COVID-19 vaccine. The mandate would not apply to remote workers.

Employers who knowingly violate the rule for more than seven days will be forced to pay a penalty of $5,000 per month for each violation.

The legislation was first introduced last month by Democrat State Senators Sam Bell, Tiara Mack, Jonathon Acosta, Kendra Anderson, James A. Seveney, and Cynthia Mendes

On Monday, Bell expressed his continued support for the legislation, citing an article in the Boston Globe that claimed Rhode Islanders “still strongly support a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.”

“With @DanMcGowan reporting that Rhode Islanders still strongly support a universal vaccine mandate, despite the McKee Administration pushing hard for the surrender policy, it’s time for us to pass my mandate bill.  Cases are rising again.  Surrender isn’t working,” Bell tweeted.

As reported by the Globe, a survey conducted by Northeastern University, Harvard University, Rutgers University, and Northwestern University found that Rhode Islanders’ support for a vaccine mandate has never fallen below 60 percent across eight different surveys since December 2020.

In June 2021, nearly three-quarters of Rhode Island residents viewed a vaccine mandate favorably, according to the survey.

Bell urged his fellow state legislators to pass the bill on the same day that a Trump-appointed federal judge in Florida struck down the Biden administration’s mask mandate for public transportation, declaring the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) requirement “unlawful.”

Videos showed passengers and airline employees erupting in cheers as U.S.-based airlines announced the end of the mask requirement. Apparently ignoring Americans’ collective sigh of relief, the White House condemned the court’s ruling, with Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki calling the decision “disappointing.”