Vaccine exemptions bill heading to conference committee Monday night after Kansas lawmakers special session

The Vaccine exemptions bill now goes to a conference committee Monday night after Kansas...
The Vaccine exemptions bill now goes to a conference committee Monday night after Kansas lawmakers vote on their amendments.(Charlie Riedel | AP)
Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 6:53 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas legislators opened a special session on Monday with two bills aimed at fighting COVID mandates.

After hours of deliberation, the House and the Senate now have to iron out differences.

Some lawmakers say they should not be required to get vaccinated against it in order to keep their jobs, and that’s the focus of debate continuing Monday night.

The House passed a bill just after noon Monday that swaps a guarantee of unemployment benefits for fired workers, with allowing state officials to investigate allegations of unlawful firings.

The bill also expands medical and religious exemptions to workers refusing the covid-19, also allowing workers to claim an exemption on moral grounds.

Employees denied an exemption can file a grievance - and businesses could be fined.

“The religious exemptions opens a very wide door because who am I or who is an employer, or who is a government to determine what your sincerely held religious are, and so what we put in a statute is fill out the statement make sure your employer knows that you have a sincerely belief against these vaccinations and they shall accept that,” Rep. Stephen Owens, explained. “If they do not there are penalties and there’s a process through the Kansas Department of Labor.”

“We put additional regulations and mandates on businesses. This should be vetted, we should hear from the business community, so we know how this affects them, we didn’t do any of that. this has been rushed through and they’ll be unattended consequences and w can hurt many businesses in Kansas,” Rep. Tom Sawyer argued.

Rep. Owens says that the bill does not prevent businesses from implementing mask mandates for workers who choose not to get vaccinated.

Then, about an hour ago, the Senate passed the bill, with several changes. Their version includes extending unemployment compensation to workers fired for refusing the vaccine.

The Senate also passed an amendment that would prohibit any employers from instituting a covid-19 vaccine requirement unless given that authority by the legislature.

Then, the House voted to nonconcur with the Senate amendments, which means the bill now goes to a conference committee Monday night.

“You can’t put a test on people’s sincerely held belief. The medical exemption portion, there is lot of information that these vaccines have risk and if you can get a doctor or somebody in the health care field to sign off on that. I think they should be accepting of that because this is an invasive type of thing, once you go home and you get that show, you cant take it off when you come through the door,” Sen. Mike Tomson said.

“We certainly want to make sure that we provide as much protection as possible with vaccines through masking through other protocols and certainly give the employers the ability, especially where there is a high degree of interaction with the public for those employees to do everything they can to be as safe as possible,” Sen. David Haley responded.

The Senate returns back at 7:30 pm and the House returns at 8 pm for the conference.

Several are involved right now in a public hearing on redistricting that was previously set Monday night.

We will have further updates online and on 13 NEWS at ten.

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