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AG Rokita: Indiana University COVID-19 Vaccine Policy Violates State Law

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FILE PHOTO: Peter Balonon-Rosen
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IPB News

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita thinks an Indiana University policy that asks for proof of COVID-19 vaccination violates a new state law.

Rokita issued an advisory opinion on the issue Wednesday, prompted by requests from Republican lawmakers who oppose the university policy.

The new law, HB 1405, bans state and local governments from creating or requiring COVID vaccine passports. Legislative leaders and the bill’s authors and sponsors said that language didn’t mean K-12 schools or public universities.

READ MORE: How Is Indiana Distributing COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What You Need To Know

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and other statewide issues.

That language was crafted and approved in the final days of session, without any public hearings.

But Rokita said case law has repeatedly held that public universities are “arms of the state.” Therefore, he said, IU can’t ask students, faculty or staff for proof of vaccination.

The Republican AG stressed that the law doesn’t bar the university from requiring the vaccination – just that it can’t ask for proof.

Rokita’s opinion is non-binding and does not carry force of law.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita thinks an Indiana University policy that asks for proof of COVID-19 vaccination violates a new state law.

<--break->

Rokita issued an advisory opinion on the issue Wednesday, prompted by requests from Republican lawmakers who oppose the university policy.

The new law, HB 1405, bans state and local governments from creating or requiring COVID vaccine passports. Legislative leaders and the bill’s authors and sponsors said that language didn’t mean K-12 schools or public universities.

READ MORE: How Is Indiana Distributing COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What You Need To Know

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and other statewide issues.

That language was crafted and approved in the final days of session, without any public hearings.

But Rokita said case law has repeatedly held that public universities are “arms of the state.” Therefore, he said, IU can’t ask students, faculty or staff for proof of vaccination.

The Republican AG stressed that the law doesn’t bar the university from requiring the vaccination – just that it can’t ask for proof.

Rokita’s opinion is non-binding and does not carry force of law.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.