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Wyoming Legislature may hold October special session to limit impact of Biden vaccine mandate


CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Legislature may hold a special session in October that would aim to limit perceived federal overreach of President Joe Biden’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandate that will apply to employers with at least 100 employees.

“This matter should not go unanswered,” Senate President Dan Dockstader said in a Wednesday press release from Governor Mark Gordon’s office. “We should explore every option. As we learn more about the specifics associated with these federal standards and vaccine mandates in general we can properly coordinate our response.”

Legislative leadership and the governor have been discussing options on how to address perceived overreach of the Biden mandate. The mandate would require employers with at least 100 employees to require those employees to either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.

The governor’s office said Wednesday that details for the possible special session of the legislature are pending the release of federal emergency standards that would make the Biden vaccine mandate take effect.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is expected to release those emergency standards in coming weeks.

The new mandate is expected to apply in Wyoming school districts, according to the Wyoming Department of Education. That is because Wyoming runs a an OSHA-approved state plan.

The governor’s office said that the “State Plan OSHA Program” allows Wyoming to manage and retain OSHA enforcement.

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

Pending analysis of the emergency standards for the vaccine mandates, bills would be drafted to fight the mandates in Wyoming.

“I am committed to working with my legislative colleagues and the governor to ensure that as we consider a special session we are well-informed on the issues, judicious in our approach and the policy outcomes serve us well,” Speaker of the House Eric Barlow said in Wednesday’s press release.

Gordon’s office noted that Attorney General Bridget Hill is also preparing possible legal action to fight the vaccine mandates and prevent the rules from applying to private employers.

Gordon said the efforts to fight the new mandate needs to be thoughtful.

“This is not a fire, ready, aim moment,” Gordon said. “We must be smart, thoughtful, and effective in the way we respond to these overreaching efforts by the Biden Administration. Responding prematurely is not in the best interests of Wyoming’s citizens or employers.”

Gordon said that he has been vaccinated against COVID-19 and that vaccines are an “important tool” to get the pandemic under control. But he said he also understands other people have different views on the COVID-19 vaccines.

“In some cases, they are my neighbors and I respect their views just as I expect them to respect mine,” he said. “This Biden mandate is counterproductive and will not convince anyone otherwise.”

The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.