By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Gov. Mark Gordon is preparing for both legislative and legal action to block the vaccination mandate issued last week by President Joe Biden, he announced Wednesday.
Gordon said he has advised Attorney General Bridget Hill to begin preparing a lawsuit to stop the mandate as it applies to private employers and has also started talking with legislators about holding a special legislative session, if necessary, to address the federal order.
“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.”
The need for a special legislative session will be determined by the nature of the federal rules adopted to put the mandate in place, Gordon said.
“If there is a need and ability for the Legislature to respond to the emergency standards, specific bills and the rules for the session will be drafted,” the statement said.
Biden last week issued a mandate requiring that all federal employees, health care workers and workers at companies employing more than 100 people either get the coronavirus vaccine or be tested weekly for the illness.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration would enforce the mandate for private businesses through fines that would be levied against those that fail to comply.
Gordon said if a special legislative session is called, it could be held as soon as October and would focus only on addressing the emergency standards to be handed down by the Biden administration.
“Wyoming is a conservative state with a constitution designed to constrain the actions of government, so special sessions are meant to be very rare,” he said “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.”
Senate Vice President Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that if a special session is called, the Legislature will probably examine several ways to deal with the mandates.
Among other actions, the Legislature may decide to use federal COVID relief funds to pay the fines of companies that do not comply with the mandates or provide unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs, Driskill said.
Driskill also suggested the state may order its own OSHA office to ignore the federal mandates.
Gordon said all possibilities must be thoroughly examined.
“This is not a fire, ready aim moment,” he said. “We must be smart, thoughtful and effective in the way we respond to these overreaching efforts by the Biden administration.”
Gordon said while he agrees that the vaccines are an important tool for ending the pandemic, he does not believe the Biden administration should order their use.