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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES - Iowa employers would be barred from requiring their employees to get COVID-19 shots or base other job-related decisions on their vaccination history if a bill making its way through the Legislature is signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Members of the Senate Human Resources Committee voted 7-6 to approve a scaled-back measure that would bar businesses from mandating their employees to be vaccinated. Employers also couldn't use a vaccination history, refusal to receive a vaccination or refusal to provide proof of vaccination in establishing workplace compensation, terms, conditions or privileges. Senate File 193 also would prohibit state officials from including vaccination information on an Iowan's state-issued driver's license or identification card.
Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, said the legislation respects Iowans' freedom to make their own decisions about whether to get vaccinated, while opponents questioned whether to put into law something that already is the accepted practice both by employers and the state Department of Transportation.
'There is no mandate in this state for the COVID-19 vaccination, so let's get that off the table - there isn't one,” said Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque. She also noted state law provides religious and medical exemptions as it relates to immunizations.
The brief committee debate focused on dueling statistical views focusing on more than 5,400 Iowans who have died since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state nearly one year ago versus more than 900 people who have died in 2021 after being administered the COVID-19 vaccine.
'I personally think we should encourage vaccinations, but I want to respect the boundaries of people to not have that vaccination,” said Carlin, manager of SF 193. 'There is a risk to it. Those people should have that choice rather than having it forced on them.”
However, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, expressed concern the bill sent the wrong message at a time when public health officials are encouraging Iowans to get vaccinated as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19 variants that could pose new threats.
'What's the message this bill is really trying to send here. What's the goal here? I think the goal here is to discourage people from getting vaccinated,” Bolkcom told his Senate colleagues before one GOP senator joined five Democrats in opposing the bill.
Before advancing the bill, senators agreed to remove some aspects but maintain the portion that would give an employee the right to bring legal action to seek injunctive relief if an employer violated the intent of the law with a vaccination requirement.
The bill now goes to the Senate debate calendar for further consideration.
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