Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, signed legislation on Friday that allows her residents to receive unemployment benefits if they are dismissed from their jobs for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
The GOP governor has been staunchly opposed to government vaccine and mask mandates and said that “no Iowan should be forced to lose their job or livelihood over the COVID-19 vaccine,” according to remarks reported by The Associated Press.
On Thursday, the Republican-led Iowa legislature passed the legislation during a special one-day session on a 68-27 vote.
The AP noted further that Reynolds has been an advocate for the vaccines, saying that she believes they are the best means of protection from the virus. She just doesn’t favor the mandates, however.
Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the AP reported that Reynolds’ state is 23rd in the country for the percentage of its population who are fully vaccinated — 55.4 percent. Roughly one-third of Iowans have not gotten at least one dose of the vaccine “and most of the state continues to experience a high level of community spread of the virus,” the newswire added.
But despite that, the governor said she will direct her attorney general to file a lawsuit against the federal government to challenge President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for private employers that have more than 100 workers as soon as the rule is published by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Nearly two dozen other GOP-led states are teeing up to file suit against the mandate as well, according to reports.
More than 100 people who are also opposed to the vaccine mandate held a rally at the Iowa Capitol on Thursday in a bid to force lawmakers to adopt stronger language,” according to the AP. However, lobbyists for business owners in the state argued that the bill will put them in conflict with the state law and the federal directive. In addition, business owners say they’re worried they will be forced to pay higher unemployment insurance costs.
“It’s a terrible position for businesses to be put in and it doesn’t solve the problem you’re trying to solve,” J.D. Davis, vice president of public policy for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, said during a public commentary segment as the legislation was being debated last week.
Rep. Mary Mascher (D) remarked that some 7,000 Iowans have died from coronavirus, a good portion of them in nursing homes and eldercare facilities where many residents were already suffering from preexisting medical conditions.
“We’re not trying to hurt anybody. We’re trying to save lives and the medical community has been helping us with those efforts,” she noted.
However, GOP Rep. Bobby Kaufmann spoke in favor of the legislation, saying that it will help those in his district, adding “people won’t get fired Monday because of the bill period, so for them I want this bill to pass.”
Other GOP-led states have also adopted measures opposing the federal vaccine requirement including Arkansas, Montana, Texas, and West Virginia, the AP reported.
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