States Respond to the Federal Vaccine Mandate with Special Sessions

By FOCUS, a Leonine Business

Tennessee and North Dakota have undergone special sessions this month to determine whether their states will mandate companies to require their employees to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. This follows Democratic President Joe Biden mandating that companies with 100 workers or more require their employees to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine back in September. That mandate was recently put on hold in the U.S. appeals court on November 12, reports Reuters.

Earlier this month Tennessee held a special session with the sole focus on mandates and restrictions related to the pandemic. On November 13, Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed into law legislation that would ban private businesses from requiring any proof of vaccination and only allows schools and other public entities to allow mask mandates if there is a high transmission rate within a 14-day period, reports the Tennessean. The only correction the governor is asking the legislature to reconsider in the law is the indefinite hospital family visitation of COVID-19 patients.

Last week, North Dakota held a four-day special session dedicated to, among a few select topics, whether or not to require employers to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine. Other states are also holding or talking about holding special sessions on this same topic, including Kansas and Texas, who has already held one special session focusing on the pandemic in October. Florida will be starting their five-day special session this week covering both vaccine and mask mandates. The biggest focus for Florida is going to be allowing for exemptions due to medical or religious reasons for any employee vaccine mandates, reports Vermont lawmakers have also been called back for a November 22 special session for the purpose of passing legislation narrowly tailored to grant municipalities the authority to implement time-limited mask mandates, VermontBiz reports; it is unclear if vaccine mandates will also be discussed.

The federal mandate is meant to come into effect in January, but a court battle is sure to continue on whether the mandate is constitutional. It is very likely we will see more states deal with this agenda item in their regular sessions come January. What is unknown is what legal conundrum those states will find themselves in, between state law and federal mandates.