Kansas Senate leader wants a special legislative session after drafting bill pushing to protect workers refusing COVID-19 vaccine mandate

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW & AP) — A top Republican lawmaker is pushing to protect the ability of Kansas workers to claim religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine mandates and to provide unemployment benefits if they won’t get inoculated.

Senate President Ty Masterson outlined his proposals Tuesday during a meeting of a joint legislative committee looking for ways for Kansas to resist COVID-19 vaccine mandates imposed by President Joe Biden. Employers with 100 employees or more must require that employees get fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 as a condition of employment.

Under Masterson’s proposal, employees could submit a waiver request stating that complying with the coronavirus vaccine requirement would endanger their life or health or that of someone who resides with them or violate sincerely held religious beliefs.

The employer would then have to grant the exemption requested. An employee “aggrieved” by a violation may bring a civil action in an appropriate district court against an employer by damages caused by such violation.

During the meeting, Masterson referred to President Biden’s mandate as “garbage.”

“Putting someone else in the place of God isn’t that place to be,” Senator Masterson said. “What we’re trying to get to is the core of someone’s first amendment rights and freedom of religion.”

Masterson said that he wants lawmakers to reconvene into a special session before Thanksgiving on Nov. 22 to consider proposals he outlined. To move forward, two-thirds of lawmakers in both the House and Senate would have to agree for a special session to take place.

Watch the full meeting below:

Masterson and other GOP leaders had been wary of pushing for lawmakers to reconvene before they’re set to meet again in January.

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