By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A bill designed to prevent some employers from imposing a coronavirus vaccine mandate on their employees was changed Tuesday to allow workers to keep their jobs without vaccinations if they are regularly tested for coronavirus.
As the Senate approved HB1001 in its second reading Tuesday, it adopted an amendment offered by Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, which she said would give employees an option other than getting a coronavirus vaccine against their wills to keep their jobs.
“If we allow employers to force a drug on their employees without knowing the immediate or future health implications, we are making the employee no better than a slave,” she said. “This amendment will allow us to have a stay (from the federal vaccine mandate) until the lawsuit is resolved and allow the employer to follow the plan and make sure employees are tested.”
The amendment came in the sixth day of a special legislative session called by the Legislature to determine Wyoming’s response to the mandate proposed by President Joe Biden. Under that mandate, federal employees, health care workers and workers for companies with more than 100 employees would have to be vaccinated or regularly tested for coronavirus.
HB1001 originally said employers could not force employees to get a vaccine unless the employers could prove the vaccination was essential to their business.
Hutchings said her amendment would provide an alternative to a vaccination mandate while adhering to the administration’s proposed rules, even though she said those rules violate the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions.
Wyoming is one of several states to file legal action against the mandate. As it stood Tuesday, the bill and its prohibitions against vaccine mandates would not take effect until the legal challenges to the federal mandate have been settled.
Senators rejected an amendment that would have the bill take effect immediately rather than after a resolution to the legal challenge, agreeing businesses that would be subject to the federal mandate could lose federal contracts and support while the issue is settled in court.
“Let’s shake our fist at the man,” said Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower. “Let’s do it. But let’s not put a business in front. We’re all frustrated. We all want to fight. But do you want to fight your own fight or do you want to shove the viability of our state and our businesses … under the bus?”
The amendment was rejected despite arguments that unless the state takes a position against the mandate, the legislation is meaningless.
“We have a choice to send a strongly worded letter and shake our fists and stomp our feet but ultimately do nothing,” said Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Sheridan. “I don’t think that’s why the folks back home sent us down here. If we don’t pass this amendment, this bill doesn’t do much. This is a fight we must fight.”
The bill was approved for a third reading on Wednesday, as was HB1002, which would prohibit state and local government entities from enforcing a vaccination mandate.
Both bills were approved last week by the House, which is to return to the special session on Wednesday.