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The topic of “COVID vaccine passports” has been in the news fairly recently. A COVID vaccine passport can be either digital, like a phone app, or paper, like a small card. It shows proof you have had the COVID-19 vaccination or that you are immune from COVID-19. It is your ticket to move about freely in society, with possible impact on your ability to travel, get to work, go to a concert, go to a sports stadium, and even to the grocery store, restaurant, movie theater, and any other retail store or public place.

The Biden administration is planning on developing a COVID-19 vaccine passport system. Officials are overseeing coordinated efforts between federal agencies and private companies. They say that the private sector will take the lead on this and that the federal government will not mandate it. Thus they are trying to make this appear as a “decentralized” effort.

This decentralized appearance is very similar to how the Obama administration worked to get Common Core into K-12 schools about 10 years ago. Private entities were involved and incentives were offered to get states to adopt Common Core. And freedom in education was eroded.

In the same way, this effort to implement COVID-19 vaccine passports would also result in both a loss of freedom in medical care and in the freedom of movement in society. Citizens should be able to freely decide on their own whether or not to receive the COVID-19 vaccination without feeling pressured by the threat of being unable to move about at will if they don’t get it. They also should not have to be restricted in their ability to go from place to place or gain access to places normally open to the public if they decide not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Getting a vaccination is a very personal medical decision as each person weighs the risks and benefits for himself and must make a decision based upon that. People should be left alone to make that decision without the pressure of losing normal access to public and commercial places in society. This is true even when a vaccine is FDA-approved. And the COVID-19 vaccine is only experimental; it is not approved by the FDA. So that means respect for individual rights is even more imperative.

In addition the government has long recognized our rights to keep our medical information private and that is why the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patients from their health information being disclosed without their consent. A COVID vaccine passport would violate the spirit of that law by forcing people to reveal their medical information under threat of being restricted in their movements. It would infringe on a right to privacy.

We can look to the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” The right to be secure in your person is basic to your right to freely decide to take a vaccine or any other kind of medical treatment.

Our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and the 14th Amendment make clear that as citizens we have the right to “liberty”. Part of what that means is to be able to move freely in society.

Under the 10th Amendment the states have the right to exercise “police power”, which means the states have the right to protect public safety and public health. This is why the state has been allowed in the time of a declared public health disaster emergency, which we are under due to COVID-19, to require certain restrictions on public movement, such as questions on respiratory health and temperature checks before entering buildings and social distancing, etc. However, requiring a vaccine is an overreach of police power because it infringes too much on an individual’s right to liberty and privacy as explained above.

Private entities, such as businesses or non-profit organizations, should also not be allowed to require a COVID vaccine passport to travel or enter the place of business for the same privacy and liberty reasons. Just as Jim Crow laws were used by businesses to restrict the liberty and movement of African-Americans and thus protect discrimination, so COVID vaccine passports should not be used by businesses to restrict the liberty and movement of medical freedom-loving Americans and thus discriminate against them.

States are handling this differently. New York is promoting an “Excelsior Pass”, which is a COVID vaccine passport that Governor Cuomo said could be used at theaters, stadiums, arenas, etc. Some places in New York are already implementing it. On the other hand, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has prohibited the use of COVID vaccine passports by both governments and businesses in his state. Iowa should go the way of Florida. We should reject the tyrannical and totalitarian approach and embrace an approach that respects our citizens’ rights and liberties.

House Sets Budget Target

The ongoing revenue (meaning it is projected not to be one-time money but available every year) for Fiscal Year 22 is $8.4 billion. The House budget target is less than that to ensure the state budget will not spend more than it takes in. Our House target is $8.1 billion and designed to build in a cushion in case projections are too inaccurate. It is very close to the governor’s and the senate’s targets. Now details are being hammered out. This is about the regular state budget and does not include any funding that will be coming to the state from the third federal government COVID stimulus amounts. Determinations have not yet been made regarding the federal COVID money.

Passed by the House

Lobbying by Cities & Counties – This bill requires cities and counties maintain public records and documents regarding their lobbying efforts, including compensation for lobbyists, contracts, and time spent.

Broadband Bill – This lays out the rules for broadband grant funds. They are targeted to unserved and underserved areas of the state for high speed internet access. As more people continue to work remotely and telehealth capabilities continue to expand, high speed internet becomes even more of a necessity. The House still is planning to pass the significant funding needed to make this a reality for more Iowans.

Author: Sandy Salmon