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Iowa lawmakers pass vaccine mandate exemption bill

Protesters gather at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday Oct. 28, 2021, to push...
Protesters gather at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday Oct. 28, 2021, to push the Iowa Legislature to pass a bill that would prohibit vaccine mandates from being imposed on employees in Iowa. Informed Choice Iowa, a group opposing vaccine and mask mandates, held the rally as lawmakers convened a special session of the legislature and unveiled a bill that provides for vaccine mandate exemptions and required unemployment benefits for workers forced out of a job for refusing a vaccine. (AP Photo/David Pitt)(David Pitt | AP)
Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 6:56 AM CDT
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Legislature has passed a bill that requires businesses to allow employees to seek medical and religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

It also guarantees that employees who are denied exemptions and are fired due to their decision not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine are eligible for unemployment benefits.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who supports vaccines but opposes mask and vaccine requirements, called for legislative action on vaccine mandates and indicated she would sign the bill.

“This is a major step forward in protecting Iowans’ freedoms and their abilities to make healthcare decisions based on what’s best for themselves and their families,” Reynolds said in a statement. “This legislation also gives employees the assurance that they will still receive unemployment benefits despite being fired for standing up for their beliefs.”

Republicans insisted the bill will help workers keep their jobs, but Democrats complained it has no enforcement or penalties for companies that fire workers anyway.

They supported it because it does guarantee workers unemployment.

Sen. Chuck Grassley praised the new legislation in a statement:

“After months of hard work, careful consideration, and listening to the stories of Iowans, I believe we have found a meaningful solution to protect Iowans and Iowa businesses from the Biden Administration’s extreme government overreach. As this bill passed with bipartisan support, it’s clear even Democrats recognize the dangerous behavior of the Biden Administration. As things progress, we will continue to push back against the federal government’s attempts to infringe on the rights of Iowans.”

Gov. Reynolds could sign the bill into law as soon as Friday.

She also said the state plans to take immediate legal action when the Biden Administration issues the OSHA vaccine mandate in the coming days.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved.