An ambitious anti-vax-mandate session produces an isolated bill
An ambitious special legislative session that proposed 21 bills resisting expected federal testing and vaccination rules ended Wednesday with a single measure that was amended to minimize conflict with federal law.
Lawmakers considered 25 amendments and passed 13 before passing Bill 1002 – Federal COVID Vaccination Warrants-Ban and Remedies-2 late Wednesday night. The measure aims to protect individual rights by prohibiting “the application of federal mandates on the COVID-19 vaccine” by any public entity.
The 10-page bill, which is addressed to Governor Mark Gordon for signature or veto, says no public entity will enforce a federal mandate requiring “an employee to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.” The measure, however, includes an exception for entities that could lose federal funding by following Wyoming law instead of complying with federal standards.
This exclusion – achieved by redefining âpublic entityâ in the bill – appears to protect hospitals and other medical institutions whose Medicare and Medicaid funding would be at risk if they did not need vaccinations.
Other public entities – primarily state and local governments – cannot require vaccination, the measure said. But this vaccine mandate ban will not be enforced if a federal vaccine requirement is in place, the bill says.
If legal challenges cause a court to temporarily or permanently block any federal law, rule, standard, ordinance, or regulation, Wyoming’s ban on new vaccine requirements for public entities would revert.
The bill also allocates $ 4 million to the governor for legal actions, including joining lawsuits brought by citizens and businesses in Wyoming battling federal regulations.
The session showed that “the majority of Wyoming residents [believe] that the decision to receive a COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice, âSpeaker of the House Eric Barlow (R-Gillette) and Speaker of the Senate Dan Dockstader (R-Afton) said on Thursday.
Governor Gordon thanked lawmakers but stopped congratulating them at the end of the special session. âYour comprehensive debate has shed light on the complicated issue of state rights and highlighted some particular challenges we face as we approach policies around this pandemic,â he said in a 170-word statement. read in the Senate file.
Hours after Wednesday’s last piece of legislation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released its standards for employers with 100 or more workers. The standards require those who will not be vaccinated to undergo weekly tests and wear a mask.
Gordon announced legal action on Thursday as the statewide death toll from COVID-19 climbed to 1,243.
“The attorney general has a solid legal strategy which she has developed with a coalition of other attorneys general,” he said in a statement.
“Confront” the sovereignty of the state
Five pages of HB-1002 cover the findings that set out Wyoming’s constitutional arguments against the proposed federal requirements. “The directive issued by the federal executive and the upcoming rules of federal agencies regarding COVID-19 vaccination warrants cannot be a more direct affront to state sovereignty,” one reads in a passage.
Another page is dedicated to a resolution. “Any federal COVID-19 vaccination requirement or mandate [i]s an infringement of the rights of Wyoming citizens to make their own health care decisions without coercion, intrusion or diktat from the government, âone passage reads.
The substance of the bill stands at 34 words: “No public entity shall apply a federal government mandate or standard, whether urgent, temporary or permanent, which obliges an employer to guarantee or demand that an employee receive a vaccine against COVID-19. . “
Lawmakers came to this conclusion after voting for a special session in late October, rejecting fast-track rules and proposing 21 bills. They examined three of them in depth for seven days.
The success of the HB-1002 was the subject of much political negotiation.
Lawmakers considered 24 amendments and passed 12, not counting changes made in a House-Senate conference committee, before finally approving it. The closest votes were at third reading in the Senate and when the House voted for the House-Senate conference committee version. In both cases, the bill won the support of around 66% of the elected members of each body where a simple majority was required.
Along the way, the Senate has twice failed to pass Bill 1001 – Employer Mandates for the COVID-19 Vaccine, garnering just 15 of the 16 votes required in the first round and only 14 “yes In a second reconsideration vote. As originally proposed, HB-1001 would have prohibited companies from requiring workers to be vaccinated, among other things.
A controversial debate saw the measure tortured with 55 amendments before it reached its ignominious end.
The third measure examined in depth, Senate File 1003 – Discriminatory Practices COVID-19-ban, was aimed at preventing insurance companies; entities providing benefits, services and education; and places of “public housing” to prohibit unvaccinated people or treat them differently. Only 13 senators voted for, three less than the number required for the passage.
Lawmakers and citizens alike enthralled the Capitol during the session, many delving into theories of constitutional law, the separation of powers, the scientific method, business practices and personal freedoms. Some of the starkest contrasts came during testimony before the Senate Supply Committee as it examined the hapless HB-1001.
“I am concerned that the impact of this bill will be to create chaos,” said Jeffrey Chapman, chief medical officer at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. While the Supreme Court requires “sincere religious belief” for an exemption, the House version of the bill would have granted an exemption to anyone who requested one.
âI think there must be something in the bill that says employers have the ability to create some type of process on what constitutes a religious exemption,â he said.
Joanna Vilos, director of legal and human resources at CRMC, said these standards exist. Adopting them “would be very helpful … so that employers are not confused about how to grant these religious exemptions.”
Jasper James Chen, president of the Wyoming Medical Society and psychiatrist at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, focused on the medical exemptions being considered from any vaccine requirements.
âThe complexity and difficulty of that – the application – just creates us, for lack of a better term, chaos,â he said. “I don’t know how you are going to implement all the elements of the bill as they stand to balance individual rights against the rights of employers.”
Any conflict between Wyoming and federal laws – such as those proposed in the bill – would create problems, Scott W. Meier, president and CEO of the Wyoming Bankers Association, told the committee. “We are not supporting anything that places additional burdens on our small businesses and especially our banks,” he said.
Seventy-nine percent of CRMC employees are voluntarily vaccinated, centre’s president and CEO Tim Thornell told the committee. He argued against a ban on vaccine requirements.
“We have concerns today, and growing concerns over time, that employees who are vaccinated will not want to work in an environment where it is not required of all of their peers,” he said. . “We absolutely risk losing employees if we are not able to have the vaccine requirement at some point in the future.”
Opponents of the vaccine have expressed their concerns.
Holly Brock, who said she represents 850 people with the Wyoming Medical Freedom Advocates group, described what she called the deleterious effects of COVID-19 vaccines among a “large group of women” aged 25 to 35 years.
âI have a few dear friends who have high rates of abnormal bleeding,â she said. “I also have two friends with infants who are in a vegetative state and unable to move their arms and legs, one of whom – their infant was airlifted to Lansing, which is the center that takes care of. these, and they say in the last month they’ve had 16 cases of this.
Brock also referred to a privately funded study by a scientist friend in her group, she said, “which says they find 82% pregnancy loss among vaccinated women in my bracket. of age “.
None of Brock’s claims, nor those of any other witnesses, have been verified by WyoFile or the committee.
She also attacked the standards to justify a religious exemption. âWe have very conservative cities with mosques being built in the centers because we are defending religious freedom in this country,â she said. âSo how is it that they have to prove their religious convictions and their sincere beliefs on the cross? [in] a religious exemption?