Kansas GOP eases religious vaccine exemptions, moves to limit mandates
Republican Kansas state lawmakers on Monday moved to challenge the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates, forcing Gov. Laura Kelly (D) to convene a special session to look into ways to fight President Biden’s vaccine mandate for businesses.
One method Kansas Republicans considered was requiring employers to accept all religious exemption requests, while others sought to guarantee that workers fired for not getting vaccinated would be eligible for unemployment benefits, according to The Associated Press.
Earlier this month, state Senate President Ty Masterson (R) urged lawmakers to convene a special session before Thanksgiving specifically to consider proposals that would it make it easier for workers to use religious exemptions to vaccine mandates.
On Monday, the Kansas Senate voted to approve a bill with these proposed measures as well as a ban on private employers issuing vaccine mandates.
The AP noted that Republican leaders debated whether other measures were necessary if the ban on vaccine mandates was passed.
“If the bill that we just passed is adhered to by the businesses, nothing else matters. There’s not going to be anybody to let go,” House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins (R) said. “So why do we need anything more?”
Though she is a Democrat, Kelly came out against Biden’s vaccine mandate earlier this month.
“While I appreciate the intention to keep people safe, a goal I share, I don’t believe this directive is the correct, or the most effective, solution for Kansas,” she said in a statement. “States have been leading the fight against COVID-19 from the start of the pandemic. It is too late to impose a federal standard now that we have already developed systems and strategies that are tailored for our specific needs.”