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Iowa joins 10 states in suing over workplace vaccine rules; claims states' rights (copy)
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Iowa joins 10 states in suing over workplace vaccine rules; claims states' rights (copy)

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DES MOINES — As Gov. Kim Reynolds promised, Iowa joined 10 other states Friday in filing suit against the Biden administration to challenge a new vaccine requirement for workers at companies with more than 100 employees.

“This mandate is unconstitutional, unlawful and unwise,” according to the 14-page lawsuit filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit based in St. Louis, Mo., in which the challenging parties assert the authority to compel vaccinations lies with states, not the federal government.

The suit filed by attorney general offices in 11 states asks the court to set side the new federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule on vaccines for employees of companies employing 100 or more pending judicial review. The petition was brought by Republican attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The office of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, joined in the suit, along with several private, nonprofit and religious employers.

“I believe the vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19, but I also firmly believe in Iowans’ right to make healthcare decisions based on what’s best for themselves and their families, and I remain committed to protecting those freedoms. President Biden should do the same,” Reynolds said in a statement.

Under the OSHA directive, workers at larger businesses will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or face regular testing. According to U.S. Labor Department guidance, workers who choose the testing option may have to bear the cost, as well as beginning Dec. 5 being required to wear a face mask on the job.

Officials within Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration have been encouraging widespread vaccinations as a way to halt the spread of COVID-19 and end the pandemic.

Last week Reynolds signed legislation that allows employees in private Iowa businesses to claim they are medically vulnerable or have a religious objection to a mandated vaccine based solely on their statements, rather than with the backing by a professional. Under the bill that took effect upon enactment, Iowans who lose their jobs for refusing to comply with an employer's COVID-19 vaccination requirement will still be eligible for unemployment benefits if they are terminated.

On the same day, Reynolds announced that Iowa had joined nine other states in a lawsuit challenging Biden’s vaccine mandate for all workers employed by a federal contractor, which is one-fifth of the nation’s workforce.

Ross Wilburn, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, noted that vaccination requirements are not new and have been implemented in schools, the military and other places as an effective way to control disease outbreaks.

“The governor is giving Iowans a false choice between the common good and personal freedom,” said Wilburn, advising Iowans to get vaccinated, wear masks and stay home when sick.

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