Vaccine passport ban headed to Gov. Reynolds’ desk

By: - May 5, 2021 5:52 pm

A Department of Health and Human Services employee holds a COVID-19 vaccine record card Nov. 13, 2020, in Washington D.C. (Photo by EJ Hersom/U.S. Department of Defense)

Iowa businesses may not ask for proof of vaccination from customers under a bill passed Wednesday by the Iowa Senate.

The so-called “vaccine passport” bill was introduced in April, following a request from Gov. Kim Reynolds. It forbids businesses and governmental agencies from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for customers or visitors. Temperature checks or screening for symptoms will still be allowed.

Businesses that require proof of vaccination will become ineligible for state grants or contracts.

“Here in Iowa, we will protect Iowans from being forced by tyrannical governments to inject their body with chemicals that they may or may not wish to have,” said Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel.

The Senate voted 32-16 to pass the bill. Reynolds, who requested the legislation, is expected to sign it into law.

In his closing comments on the legislation, Chapman railed against a Des Moines Register editorial that encouraged Iowans to pressure friends and family members into getting the vaccine. The bill would not prevent individuals from asking one another about vaccine status or requiring vaccination for private events, like a dinner party. It also would not restrict health care facilities or prevent employers from requiring their employees to be vaccinated.

“Iowans don’t want to be forced to have a chemical injected into their body to be able to go to a baseball game, to go to the grocery store, to live their lives,” Chapman said.

Other states have passed similar legislation or taken executive action against proof of vaccination requirements. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order to prohibit businesses and universities from requiring vaccination. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a similar edict for government agencies and institutions that receive state money.

Meanwhile, elected officials in some states are considering ways that vaccine-exclusive events can encourage people to get the shot. Chicago this month will host a concert series just for residents who have been fully vaccinated, a local NBC affiliate reported. The city’s public health commissioner emphasized the events would be an extra incentive and that proof of the vaccine would not be required for day-to-day activities.

What else did the Iowa Senate pass on Wednesday?

In their only floor debate of the week, the Senate passed several bills. Here are a few:

  • House File 744 requires the Board of Regents and school district boards of directors to provide recourse for any free speech incidents at their schools. It also mandates First Amendment training at Iowa’s public colleges.
  • House File 384 sets standards for to-go cocktails. The Senate amended the bill to include new hours for the sale of alcohol on Sunday mornings.
  • Senate File 356 gives increased liability protection for agricultural tourism, including pumpkin patches or Christmas tree farms, if a visitor gets hurt on the property.
  • Iowa drivers are required to stop and remain at the scene if they are involved in an accident that injures or kills another person. House File 524 says if a driver does not stop because they do not realize they caused injury, but they discover later that they did, that individual must contact emergency services. The Senate amended the bill, sending it back to the House.
  • Accidentally killing another person in a vehicle accident due to excessive speeding will be a Class ‘C’ felony under House File 753.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.