State plots 2-front vaccine mandate fight; Gordon plans legal action, possible special session

CASPER – Gov. Mark Gordon is planning to combat President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate through legal action from the state attorney general and a special legislative session, he announced Wednesday. 

“We cannot sit on our hands just watching this egregious example of federal government overreach,” Gordon said in a statement. “We are already communicating with other governors and states to prepare legal options once emergency standards are issued,” he continued. 

Biden issued an executive order last week that mandates employees at private companies with more than 100 workers get vaccinated or be tested weekly for COVID-19. 

In Wyoming, that order would potentially apply to more than 300 companies, according to the governor’s office. 

The Biden administration used the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a regulatory agency, as a vehicle for its executive order. Part of OSHA’s jurisdiction is protecting workers from danger in the workplace — for example, the more contagious and deadly delta variant of COVID-19. 

Even before Wednesday’s announcement, there was discussion about a possible special session being called to fight against the Biden administration’s mandate. Gordon, who has the power to call a special session when he pleases, seemed to indicate that the Legislature will convene on the topic of mandated vaccinations. 

“Should the need arise, a special session could occur as soon as October and would be solely devoted to a small number of bills aimed at addressing overreach with regard to COVID-19 vaccine mandates,” Gordon said in the statement. 

Once the details of the executive order are finalized, Gordon will make a decision on the special session. 

Lawmakers he has spoken with, however, are already relatively convinced there will be a special session on the matter. 

“Wyoming is a conservative state with a constitution designed to constrain the actions of government, so special sessions are meant to be very rare,” the statement continued. “They cost taxpayer money, so they should never be frivolous. That is why legislative leadership and I will work together to ensure any potential special session held to respond to vaccine mandates will be focused, effective, and efficient.” 

The governor also voiced concern that simply failing to enforce the executive order would take power away from the statewide OSHA program and put enforcement in the hands of the federal OSHA agency. 

“If the state does not enforce the Biden Administration’s temporary standard, Wyoming’s ability to administer the program could be jeopardized,” Gordon said in the release. 

There’s also the possibility of ignoring the federal vaccine mandate, but this could lead to hefty fines from OSHA. 

If the special session ends up happening in person, it will cost roughly $25,000 per day, Speaker of the House, Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, previously told the Star-Tribune. While Gordon has been vocal since the announcement of the federal mandate, he has also continued to encourage Wyomingites to get vaccinated, adding that he is inoculated himself.