The topic of vaccine passports has been talked about quite frequently over the past few months nationally and in Iowa. People from all walks of life and political affiliations in Iowa have expressed concerns on the possibility of vaccine passports being issued by the government and then be required for admittance into businesses or government buildings. House Republicans have heard these concerns and are again taking action.

This week in the House we passed House File 889, which will prohibit government at every level in Iowa from issuing COVID-19 vaccine passports or requiring that a vaccination status be listed on any government-issued identification. The bill also bans businesses and governmental entities from requiring a person to provide information on their COVID-19 vaccination status to receive access into those facilities.

Businesses and government buildings are still allowed to establish and maintain screening protocols as necessary for patrons who enter their premises. These entities are solely prohibited from mandating individuals prove they have been vaccinated. 

If a business or governmental entity decides to break the law and require information regarding a person’s COVID-19 vaccine status they will be disqualified from receiving a state grant or state contract. If they are already receiving a state grant or state contract and they decide to require this information, that grant or contract will not be renewed.

In this bill, health care facilities are exempt, and are permitted to ask for this information from individuals who enter their facilities. A health care facility is “an institution providing health care services or health care setting including, but not limited to hospitals and other licensed inpatient centers, ambulatory surgical or treatment centers, skilled nursing centers, residential treatment centers, diagnostic, laboratory and imaging centers, and rehabilitation and other therapeutic health settings”. This does not mean that a person will be denied healthcare services based on their vaccination status.

In order to continue to serve our most vulnerable population, we felt that it was necessary that these health care facilities were allowed to ask for this information. The health and safety of Iowans are always important to us, and we kept this in mind while also preserving Iowans’ rights and liberties.

There is opposition to this bill as some people believe it doesn’t go far enough and there are those that disagree with telling business that they cannot ask for this personal information. The bottom line is this bill is a balance between the private personal health information of Iowans who just want to get back to normal and the needs of our most vulnerable populations and frontline staff in healthcare settings.

In all the years I have served I have learned a hard truth about legislating and that truth is that balances must be struck between competing ideologies. Not every piece of legislation is perfect and more often than not it doesn’t always do everything we want it to do. However, we must make progress where we can and provide the best protections possible in the law when we have the opportunity to do so.

The bill passed with bipartisan support and is now awaiting consideration in the Senate. I believe this bill provides protections that Iowans need and moves us forward in this era of ever-changing pandemic protocols.

Rep. Matt Windschitl, Iowa House Majority Leader