Committee Passes Amended Performing Arts Venue Safety Policy Bill | News

Performing arts venues seeking state support to require masks or proof of vaccinations got it — with a snag — on Tuesday in a bipartisan 11-9 House Committee vote. But the future of the bill is uncertain with at least two other House bills seeking to ban these types of security policies.

House Bill 1369, as amended by the House Health, Human Services, and Seniors’ Affairs Committee, would affirm in law the right of performance venues to establish safety protocols during any disease outbreak, not just COVID-19.

But, if a venue changed its policy after a ticket was purchased, it would be required to refund the customer unless that person acknowledged at the time of purchase that security policies may change. At the public hearing for the bill, venue managers told committee members that it’s the performers, not always the venue, that require masks or proof of vaccinations.

The amendment’s sponsor, said Rep. Jerry Knirk, a liberty Democrat, sought a compromise.

“It tries to respect the rights of the venue to set its own rules (and) respect the right of customers to demand a refund if the rules change,” he said. “He’s trying to thread this needle for all these different things.”

Rep. Erica Layon, a Republican from Derry, objected, saying the existing law allows private companies to set policies and customers already have options for redress. When a Derry venue changed its policies after tickets were purchased, she said the Attorney General’s office stepped in and made sure ticket holders were reimbursed.

Layon also raised concerns about “dueling legislation” making its way through the Legislative Assembly.

Bill 1490, which passed 11-10 in committee, would prevent all private companies from denying access based on vaccination status or refusal to use a ‘medical device’, such as a mask . House Bill 1224, which sought similar restrictions by banning vaccine and mask mandates, has been sent for interim consideration by the full House.

House Bill 1351 would prohibit businesses that receive public funds, including performance venues, from requiring their employees to be vaccinated. This could pose a challenge for those working on an event where the act requires proof of vaccination. The House Labor, Industry and Rehabilitation Services Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill on Thursday.

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