Legislative Update – Oct. 26


Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you on Tuesday the 26th from Cheyenne and the Special Session of the Wyoming Legislature. This special session was called to address federal overreach surrounding proposed federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The first order of business today was to vote on special rules to compress the legislative process in order to utilize fewer days. Many legislators felt this abridged process did not allow for adequate debate or public participation. In the end, the House and the Senate voted against the special rules, which left the Legislature with the rules passed last session.

The letter sent to the body requesting a vote on whether to hold a special session included a provision that the Majority Floor Leaders would make a motion to adjourn if the special rules were not adopted. As Majority Floor Leader of the House, I made the motion to adjourn. The motion to adjourn failed, which means we will continue the special session. I voted to continue with the special session. It was a pretty wild day.

One of the bills being considered for introduction is HB 1002, Federal COVID vaccine mandates-prohibition and remedies-2. I am the prime sponsor of this bill. HB1002 does not allow any public entity to implement a federal vaccination rule until the appeals in federal court have been exhausted. Further, the bill authorizes the Wyoming Attorney General to fight federal vaccine mandates and it appropriates money to the Governor’s Office to fight these mandates. The courts are the only way to truly fight these federal mandates. I think Wyoming has a good case. The bill passed the Judiciary Committee this evening, but it has some critical unintended consequences that will need to be cleaned up as we move through the process.

HB 1001, COVID-19 vaccine employer mandates and HB 1006, Vaccine requirements-limitations, also passed committees this evening. These three bills will be headed to General File tomorrow, Oct. 27, for possible debate in Committee of the Whole. The Senate is still debating two or three bills on its side as well.

The Legislature can pass bills but must be careful not to violate the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.

This special session will last between five and nine days, depending upon whether the Legislature accelerates the normal process.

I can be reached at [email protected] with questions or comments.

Oct. 27

Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you on Wednesday, the 27th, from Cheyenne and the Special Session of the Wyoming Legislature. This special session was called to address federal overreach surrounding federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates that have been proposed.

Today the House heard two bills in Committee of the Whole, and both passed. They were HB 1001, COVID-19 vaccine employer mandates and HB 1002, Federal COVID vaccine mandates-prohibition and remedies-2. These bills were heard in standing committees yesterday, where the public had ample opportunity to provide public comment.

HB 1001, COVID-19 vaccine employer mandates, was heavily debated in Committee of the Whole. If enacted, this bill would provide that no employer in the state of Wyoming shall require or mandate an employee to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment, unless the mandate is critical to ensuring the health, safety and welfare of the workplace or the lack of such a mandate would otherwise jeopardize the business. Further, the employer must allow employee exceptions to the mandate for religious or medical reasons.

HB 1002, Federal COVID vaccine mandates-prohibition and remedies-2, forbids any public entity from implementing a federal COVID-19 vaccination rule until the appeals process in federal court has been exhausted. Further, the bill authorizes the Wyoming Attorney General to fight federal vaccine mandates, and it appropriates money to the Governor’s Office to fight these mandates. The courts are the only way to truly fight these federal mandates, and I think Wyoming has a good case.

Both bills received substantial testimony in committee from businesses and public entities worried about the unintended consequences of being placed in the position of having to violate state law by implementing a federal vaccine mandate or violating federal law by not requiring a vaccine mandate. All hospitals and nursing homes would likely lose their Medicaid/Medicare dollars if they followed state law by defying a federal mandate. We also run the risk of losing control of federal OSHA authority if we conflict with federal rules, which would be critically detrimental to Wyoming businesses.

In the end, both HB1001 and HB1002 were amended to ensure that we don’t damage businesses, health facilities and state/local governments by conflicting directly with federal regulation.

Wyoming needs to push back on federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the court, show that the federal regulation is contrary to state law, but not damage Wyoming businesses and the State of Wyoming in the process. I believe we threaded that needle today, on both HB1001 and 1002, by protecting workers, businesses and the state.

We will continue to refine the language to push back against the federal government as far as we possibly can. An old legislator once told me: “Be strong but do no harm.”

I can be reached at [email protected] with questions or comments.

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