Legislators Divided Over Whether Wyoming Should Have Special Session On Vaccine Mandate

Wyoming's legislators are divided over whether or not the state should hold a special session regarding President Joe Biden's proposed vaccine mandates.

Ellen Fike

October 13, 20214 min read

Wyo State Capitol

Wyoming’s legislators are divided over whether or not the state should hold a special session regarding President Joe Biden’s proposed vaccine mandates.

In September, Biden announced that federal workers, health care workers and employees at companies that employ more than 100 people will have to be vaccinated against coronavirus or be tested every week for the illness.

Wyoming’s legislators have until Thursday to vote on whether or not the state should hold a special session regarding the mandate.

Nine members of Wyoming’s Democratic Caucus told legislative leadership that they would be voting against the session. These members included Reps. Cathy Connolly, Mike Yin, Karlee Provenza and Andi Clifford and Sens. Chris Rothfuss and Mike Gierau.

“After considering the $25,000 per day cost of a special session, the lack of released federal rules in regards to how OSHA may enforce vaccine mandates, and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution that indicates that federal laws override state directives, we believe a special session would be an undue burden to the taxpayer, a waste of time and resources for legislators and our staff, and would further cause an undue burden to Wyoming businesses who would be forced to choose  between following state OR federal law, requiring them to be in violation of one or the other,” the caucus wrote. 

Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, was one of the Republican members of the legislature who also voted against the special session.

“My stance is clear: Our President’s mandate has no place in Wyoming,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, we have no clue what his mandate looks like under rule making process and we would be fighting against a rule that doesn’t exist yet. While I believe President Biden’s proposed rule is too far for government to reach, I also believe it is too far for government to enter into the hiring practices of private businesses.”

“If a private business wishes to impose hiring protocols that an employee is uncomfortable with, they have the choice to not enter into that employment,” he said. “Likewise, the business should be ready to suffer the consequences of the choices they choose to impose or not impose on their employees and the response from the public. Let the business succeed or fail based on their merit, not on government interference.”

Former Speaker of the House Kermit Brown praised Brown (no relation) for his vote.

“Courageous vote and absolutely the right thing to do. We don’t need to be getting in lawsuits with the Feds,” Kermit Brown wrote. “They are horribly expensive and trying to overcome the supremacy clause in the US Constitution is an uphill battle.”

“I always figured each day of the legislature cost $30,000 and I think I am low especially for a short special session. We are broke and don’t know it and we cannot afford silly expenditures like this,” he said.

As of Wednesday morning, a dozen senators had voted to hold the special session, while four had voted to not hold it. More than 25 representatives had also voted to hold the session.

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, was one of the senators who voted to hold the session, posting a photo of his ballot to social media that included a post-it note with a message to legislative leadership.

“We now need a special session because the Republican establishment killed my bill on the same subject,” Bouchard wrote on the ballot. “Of course I will vote yes on the special session. Don’t Fauci our Wyoming!”

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, also voted for the session.

“The dates of October 26-28 have also been scheduled for the special session, which would allow us to pass a bill banning mandates before the Banner Health deadline goes into effect,” Gray wrote on social media. “This is great news for our state! We must stop these radical vaccine mandates.”

It was not immediately clear whether the plan was to hold the session in person or virtually, but it would be around $45,000 cheaper to hold a session online.

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Ellen Fike