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Wyoming Dem. Caucus: Vaccine mandate-focused special session a waste of time and taxpayer dollars

First vaccine in Natrona County

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

CASPER, Wyo. — Members of the Democratic Caucus of the Wyoming Legislature all plan to vote against holding a special session that would aim to address what some perceive as overreach of the forthcoming vaccine mandates that have been announced by President Joe Biden’s administration.

Wyoming Senate President Dan Dockstader and Speaker of the House Eric Barlow have committed to holding a special session if a majority of members of the legislature vote in favor of holding one. The proposed special session would likely begin on October 26 in order to consider a limited number of bills aiming to limit the impact of the forthcoming vaccine mandate. Votes from legislators are due by 5 p.m. Thursday.

The vaccine mandates will be administered through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but OSHA has yet to finalize the rule. It is expected to apply to employers with over 100 employees. Those employers would be mandated to require that their employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly COVID testing.

The Democratic Caucus said in a letter to Dockstader and Barlow on Tuesday that its members plan to vote against both the special session and any proposed rule changes that could be proposed to accommodate the session.

The caucus said that members of the legislature in support of the special session want the session to be held to consider legislation only to address the forthcoming vaccine mandate.

“However, there are no current rules of the Wyoming Legislature to bind us to discussing only specific bills or to operate within specific parameters,” the letter states. “Instead, our rules require a two-thirds vote of duly elected legislators to agree upon a set of rules different from the ones that currently govern the 66th Legislature.”

The caucus said that the special session could cost about $25,000 per day. In addition to concerns about this cost, the caucus cited the fact that OSHA has yet to release final rules for the mandates as a reason why the special session shouldn’t be held. Another factor for the caucus is the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that federal law takes precedent over state law.

The caucus said that its members believe the proposed 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 added that the proposed rules for the special session would also rush the legislative process through a mirror bill process, adding that the process would limit possible debate on proposed bills.

“Of particular concern, it would also limit the opportunity for the public to
provide meaningful commentary in both chambers,” the letter adds. “If a bill is important, it deserves consideration through a full legislative process, including committee hearings, public participation and three separate readings by both the House and Senate.”

“The Democratic Caucus firmly believes that a special session is not necessary, that the proposed rules would violate the spirit of our deliberative public legislative process and that passage of these votes would only serve to create an opportunity for grandstanding instead of constructive problem solving. Therefore, we will vote ‘NO’ on the poll calling a special session and if we are called into a special
session, we will vote ‘NO’ on new rules.”

  • Sen. Minority Leader Chris Rothfuss (Albany County)
  • House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly (Albany)
  • Rep. Chad Banks (Sweetwater)
  • Rep. Andi Clifford (Fremont)
  • Sen. Mike Gierau (Teton)
  • Rep. Karlee Provenza (Albany)
  • Rep. Andy Schwartz (Teton)
  • Rep. Trey Sherwood (Albany)
  • Rep. Mike Yin (Teton)

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.