DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Senate passed HF 889, a bill that would prohibit state and municipal government agencies from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccine, by a 32 to 16 mostly party-line vote on Wednesday.
State Senators Eric Giddens, D-Cedar Falls, and Jackie Smith, D-Sioux City, joined Republicans in passing the bill. State Senator Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, joined Democrats voting against the bill.
The bill also would deny state grants and contracts to businesses that require proof of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine before allowing patrons, customers, or patients inside their business. The definition of “business” includes retail, non-profit organizations, and other entities that are open to the public. The bill exempts health care facilities. It also does not prevent businesses from requiring employees to be vaccinated.
The bill also does not prevent businesses from adopting other COVID-19 protocols, such as requiring social distancing or masks.
“And I don’t know why we’re doing the bill. But I guess it’s in front of us. I have not heard of a mandate proposed at any level of government,” State Senator Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, said during debate on the Senate version of the bill in the Senate Commerce Committee last week.
State Senator Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, opposed the bill in committee due to its restrictions on businesses.
“This bill threatens to deny a business that tries to protect its clients and its workers threatens to deny them in perpetuity any access to any state business, any contracts funded by state revenue. So I think that that that’s an unwarranted interference with business with a draconian penalty,” he argued.
The Iowa House voted to pass the bill last week, 58 to 35.
State Senator Jake Chapman, R-Adel, introduced the bill, and there was not any additional debate. He went directly to his closing comments blasting a recent editorial from The Des Moines Register that encouraged Iowans to pressure those who are not vaccinated to receive the vaccine.
“It was stunning. Mr. President, part of their article says, is encouraging Iowans to put pressure on other Iowans to force vaccines. And it says we can also take action to ‘nudge the vaccine needle in the right direction by using encouragement, accurate information, and yes, pressure. What, what can you do as an individual and they say refuse to gather in person with those who have not been vaccinated. You may not be able to control whether your uncle gets a shot, but you can control whether he eats and breathes in your dining room,'” Chapman stated.
“They go on to say when making appointments for everything, from haircuts, to dental cleanings, enquire whether staff have been vaccinated, and then only patronize providers who have been they go on to say ask your elected officials if they’ve been vaccinated, make them go on the record. This is the garbage of The Des Moines Register. This is absolute garbage. Your First Amendment does protect their right to print garbage, but that’s exactly what it is. And they wonder why they’re losing subscriptions day after day,” he added.
“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 before calling for a vote.
Gov. Kim Reynolds is expected to sign the bill. She told local media during a press conference last week that the bill’s language was the language “they all agreed on.” The bill was filed after Reynolds said during a press conference on April 7, “I strongly oppose vaccine passports, and I believe that we must take a stand as a state against them which I intend to do.”