A plan to let employees in private Iowa businesses claim they are medically vulnerable or have a religious objection to Covid vaccine mandates has cleared a House committee this afternoon.
The bill also makes employees fired for failing to get a Covid shot eligible for unemployment. Business groups are opposed to the bill and the most vocal critics of vaccine mandates are as well.
“We, the people, were blindsided with last minute legislation that is ineffective and designed to look good, but fail,” said Lindsay Maher, leader in the Informed Choice Iowa group. “The public hasn’t even had 24 hours notice to examine the language and consider the impacts of the bill.”
J.D. Davis, an Iowa Association of Business and Industry vice president, said the bill puts Iowa businesses in the predicament of trying to figure out if they must follow state or federal regulations when it comes to Covid vaccinations.
“It’s a terrible position to put businesses in and it doesn’t the solve the problem that you’re attempting to solve,” Davis said.
Republican Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton said there’s “a ton of merit to the criticism,” but this bill is a compromise that might get enough votes to pass. “I think what’s before us is what can become law,” Kaufmann said before the House State Government Committee passed the bill on a 16-7 vote.
Some Democrats on the committee objected to letting individuals claim medical exemptions from Covid shot for themselves, rather than have a medical professional sign off on the statement, as is required when school-aged children are exempted from vaccinations.
“We respect people’s medical privacy and civil rights and we don’t feel it’s the state government’s job to step on those rights,” said Representative Henry Stone of Forest City, the Republican assigned to guide the bill through House debate.
Two women who gave public testimony to lawmakers today said they face being fired or put on administrative tomorrow because their employer has a Covid vaccination mandate.