TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Kansas legislators are trying to tamp down fears about the cost and other potential problems with their proposal to provide unemployment benefits to workers who lose their jobs for refusing COVID-19 vaccines.
The GOP-controlled Legislature is expected to consider the measure during a special session that convenes Monday, along with another proposal that would make it easier for workers to claim religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The measures are responses to vaccine mandates from President Joe Biden covering more than 100 million American workers.
The push for unemployment benefits for vaccine-refusing workers comes after GOP lawmakers worried for months that the depletion of funds to pay claims last year during the pandemic would force an increase in the state tax that finances the benefits. There's bipartisan concern that the unemployment proposal before lawmakers now could lead to such a tax increase.
“I certainly don’t want to see increased unemployment taxes or that type of thing because of our actions,” Republican state Sen. Jeff Longbine of Emporia said.
Kansas' special legislative session comes as Republican governors, state attorneys general and lawmakers are pursuing ways to push back against the Biden mandates. Iowa enacted a law last month extending unemployment benefits to workers who refuse to get vaccinated.
Although vaccine mandates from private companies and local officials have boosted inoculation rates, GOP officials across the U.S. see Biden's mandates as violating personal liberties.
“No American should lose their livelihood because their personal health care decisions differ from the preferences of the president of the United States,” said C.J. Grover, a spokesperson for Kansas Attorney General...