Texas ban reflects growing GOP hostility to the vaccine

Salt Lake City (AFP) – With the governor of Texas leading the charge, the governor Republicans In several states, it is moving to obstruct or undermine the president Joe BidenMandates COVID-19 vaccine to private sector employers before regulations are issued.

The growing fight over what some see as overreach by the federal government is firing into part of the the Republican Party Although many large employers have already decided on their own to ask their workers to get the shot.

It’s almost certain to end up with a dusting job in court since GOP attorneys general in nearly half of the states have vowed To sue once the rule is revealed.

Courts have long upheld vaccine mandates, and the constitution gives the federal government the upper hand over states, but with details still unreported and judges more conservative about the court, the outcome isn’t entirely clear.

Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott He issued an executive order prohibiting private companies or any other entity from ordering vaccines. Perhaps the biggest immediate challenge yet was Biden’s announcement a month ago that workers at private companies with more than 100 employees would have to be vaccinated or tested for the coronavirus weekly.

In his order, Abbott wrote: “No entity in Texas can compel any individual to receive the COVID-19 vaccine … who objects to such vaccination.”

White House officials ignored Abbott’s order, saying that the question of whether state law could replace federal law was settled 160 years ago during the Civil War. They said the Biden administration would push the opposition and put the special workplace authorization into effect with others it had ordered for federal contractors and employees at health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid payments. Finally, these states can affect up to 100 million Americans.

Noting that the country’s death toll from COVID-19 is over 700,000, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki accused the opposition of putting politics before safety.

“I think it’s quite clear when you make a decision that goes against all the available public health information and data, that it’s not based on what’s in the best interests of the people you govern. It’s probably in the best interest of your policy,” she said.

Several large Texas companies have already implemented their vaccine mandates, and two Texas-based airlines, Southwest and American, indicated on Tuesday that they would follow the Biden administration’s orders, saying the federal action superseded any state law or order.

Elsewhere, lawmakers in Arkansas agreed to conduct Create exemptions for vaccine mandates. Although the GOP governor has not said whether he will sign it off, it has raised concerns that companies will have to choose whether to break federal or state law.

“We are handcuffing Arkansas companies that want to make up their minds on how best to keep their people safe,” said Randy Zuk, president of the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce. Some of the state’s largest companies, including Walmart and Tyson Foods, have asked some or all employees to be vaccinated.

Calls for special legislative sessions to counter vaccine mandates have been heard in states such as Wyoming, Kansas and South Dakota, where Republican Governor Kristi Noem has resisted calls to immediately consider a bill that would ensure people opt out.

“I hear from people who are going to lose their jobs almost daily, and they live in fear,” said Scott Odenbach, the state’s Republican, who has clashed with Noam over the issue. “They shouldn’t have to choose between feeding their families and their medical freedom.”

In Tennessee, Republican lawmakers have pushed Republican Governor Bill Lee to consider further easing COVID-19 restrictions, including vaccine requirements, that could undermine a $500 million incentive deal to attract a Ford Motor Company venture, the House speaker told a local radio station. .

In Indiana, Republican Governor Eric Holcomb is also resisting pressure from within his party to ban workplace vaccine mandates.

Bills are being introduced or drafted in other places as well, including Ohio and New Hampshire, where the Republican sponsor was elected Speaker of the House after his predecessor died of COVID-19.

“We’ve made clear that government mandates are not the way to successful vaccination rates and will only further divide this country,” House Speaker Sherme Packard said last month.

In Utah, lawmakers took no action, but a crowd of more than 600 crowded a legislative session hall last week.

Rob Moore, CEO of Salt Lake City-based Big-D Construction, said he supports vaccines but has questions about starting the mandate. He already has a labor shortage at his work sites, and he said employee surveys tell him that roughly 20% of his workers don’t want to be vaccinated, so they will need to get tested weekly.

“It’s heavy on our minds right now. I don’t know if the federal government has thought about that very well. The cost will be enormous,” he said.

In other sectors, vaccine requirements have gone smoothly. In Utah, the NBA jazz is vaccinating its staff. It is also asking fans at the games to show evidence of vaccination or test negative for COVID-19. So far, a few tickets have been required to redeem, Jazz spokesman Frank Zhang said, and the season opener is expected to sell out by next week.

“I think there is an understanding of what is at stake here, in terms of providing a safe environment for people to enjoy sports, concerts and performances again,” he said.

COVID-19 vaccines have been given to more than 200 million Americans, and serious side effects have been shown to be extremely rare. Experts say any risk from a vaccine is much lower than the risk posed by COVID-19.

Show last poll About half of Americans would prefer to ask workers in large companies to get vaccinated or tested weekly. But people are divided based on their political party, with about 6 in 10 Republicans opposed to delegating employees, according to a survey by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Montana is the only state so far that has passed a law prohibiting private employers from ordering vaccines. The measure includes penalties for business owners with a fine or imprisonment of $500. It faces two court challenges, from the Montana Medical Association and from a law firm that says the rule conflicts with corporate decisions about how to provide a safe work environment.

While judges weigh some of these issues, much will depend on how exactly the law is written nationwide. To be drafted as a temporary emergency rule by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which has broad authority to regulate the workplace.

“They will have to frame it in a way that makes the case relevant to the workplace and not just an attempt to raise vaccination rates in the United States more broadly,” said Dorit Rubinstein-Reese, a professor at the University of California Hastings College. of the law. “I expect that the main benefit of the mandate will be that it provides cover for companies that actually want to do this.”

Associated Press writers Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas; John Hanna in Topeka, KS; Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; David Koenig in Dallas; Zeke Miller in Washington. Holly Ramir in Concord, New Hampshire; Iris Samuels in Helena, Montana; Others across the country contributed to this report.

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