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Iowa House votes against considering a ban on COVID-19 vaccine mandates

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John Pemble
/
IPR file
A proposal that would ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates by employers, schools, businesses and government entities failed to pass in the Iowa House of Representatives Wednesday.

A proposal that would ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates by employers, schools, businesses and government entities failed to pass in the Iowa House of Representatives Wednesday.

Under the legislation, employers who fire someone for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19 would be subject to a $50,000 fine. The proposal includes exceptions for when federal law requires vaccination.

Fifty-one votes are required to pass a bill in the Iowa House.

Iowa House GOP Communications Director Melissa Deatsch said they had 51 votes in favor before bringing the bill up for a vote. She was asked what happened.

“We don’t know,” Deatsch said. “Obviously, that did not come to fruition.”

It’s very rare for a bill to fail when a vote is taken by the full House or Senate because the majority party typically only brings bills forward that they know have enough support to pass.

House Republicans were using a different bill as a vehicle for the vaccine mandate ban proposal. Lawmakers were asked to vote to “suspend the rules” to move forward with that, which requires a majority of votes cast to succeed.

The vote to suspend the rules was 48 to 50, with all Democrats present and 12 of the 60 Republican lawmakers voting no.

At least three of the Republicans who voted “no” have spoken out against vaccine mandates and have supported much wider-ranging legislation to ban vaccines for other diseases.

Rep. Jeff Shipley, R-Birmingham, was one of them.

“I think there’s other ways to address it more comprehensively,” Shipley said. “It was COVID-19 specific, and there is other discrimination occurring. So why aren’t we addressing the issue of, can you discriminate on the basis of a flu vaccine?”

Shipley said he’s not a “hard no” on the bill, and he said he thinks a similar proposal could come up later in the session. He said different lawmakers had different reasons for opposing the legislation.

The proposal also contained a version of legislation proposed by Gov. Kim Reynolds that would limit noneconomic damages awarded by juries in lawsuits involving trucking accidents. Some GOP lawmakers oppose that policy.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said before the vote that no Democrats would vote for the bill.

“If I were the business community, I’d have a lot of concerns about the fact that I might have to give a $50,000 fine just because of someone getting fired because of COVID,” Konfrst said. “I’d have a lot of questions about what that means with regard to how I can do my business.”

Last fall, the Iowa Legislature passed a law expanding employees’ ability to get out of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and extending unemployment benefits to those fired for not getting vaccinated.

This session, the House passed a separate bill to ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates in schools, and a Senate committee advanced the bill Wednesday afternoon.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter