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Kansas lawmakers approve agreement limiting COVID vaccine mandates

The Kansas House of Represenatives gathered Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 during a special session over...
The Kansas House of Represenatives gathered Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 during a special session over COVID-19 mandates.(WIBW/Danielle Martin)
Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 9:51 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas lawmakers approved an agreement late Monday limiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The Senate approved the compromise just before 11 p.m. with a vote of 24-11. The House followed suit about 15 minutes later, voting 77-34.

Gov. Laura Kelly issued a brief statement on the matter just before the Senate’s vote late Monday: “I will sign the CCR for HB 2001 when it reaches my desk.”

Republican House and Senate negotiators agreed to a compromise earlier in the evening, over the objections of Democrats appointed to the conference committee. That brought their report to the floor for a procedural move, before it returned for another vote later.

The House passed a bill earlier Monday that swapped a guarantee of unemployment benefits for fired workers, with a plan allowing the Kansas Dept. of Labor to investigate allegations of unlawful firings.

The Senate passed a version, however, that did extend unemployment compensation to workers fired for refusing the vaccine. Negotiators agreed to include the unemployment piece, and allow more time for the KDOL to investigate grievances.

Both chambers also agreed to expand medical and religious exemptions to the vaccine, allowing people to object on moral grounds. However, they dropped a portion of the Senate version that would have prohibited private businesses from implementing vaccine mandates on their own, should the Biden administration’s federal mandate be struck down.

The House and Senate were re-convening late Monday to consider the agreement. If they do, it would go to Gov. Laura Kelly.

In addition to Kelly’s statement, the leading Republican candidate to challenge her in next year’s election, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, also issued a statement, re-iterating his opposition to the mandates.

“This new legislation strengthens protections for religious liberty and guards Kansans’ jobs. I commend the legislature for their focused work, encourage them to pass this compromise legislation, and if I were governor, I would sign it into law,” he said.

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