As elected officials across the nation continue to force coronavirus vaccines on citizens, Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi is continuing to call on the state legislature to address that and other unfinished priority issues.

“I think our top priorities are to get any of the [GOP] legislative priorities over the finish line that haven’t gotten over the finish line yet,” said Rinaldi, in an exclusive interview with Texas Scorecard Tuesday. He listed the GOP priorities of banning child mutilation experiments, ending taxpayer-funded lobbying, and the “most pressing priority right now … fighting back against vaccine mandates.”

The Danger of These Mandates

“You’re saying you have to inject something into your body that itself carries potential health hazards, or you can’t participate in society,” Rinaldi previously told Texas Scorecard. “That’s a huge intrusion of government.”

Rinaldi said one of the primary concerns of various coronavirus vaccine mandates is, unlike other shot requirements, these don’t appear to have religious exemptions. Officials have used the orders to fire employees or even expel citizens from daily life, such as a recently proposed New York mandate that tried to force all citizens to show proof of vaccination before entering a variety of places including restaurants and gyms.

All of that, Rinaldi said, for a seasonal respiratory virus with a fractional mortality rate that is “slightly, in the grand scheme of things, more dangerous than the flu to most people.”

“As we heard the Supreme Court make some pretty outlandish factual statements regarding COVID and COVID vaccines last week, it’s clear we can’t rely on the courts to save us,” Rinaldi said.

State Officials’ Response

Last year, the Republican-controlled state legislature could have passed a state law to stop the mandates during their regular Spring session or three special Summer/Fall sessions, but declined to act.

Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott, after previously decreeing executive orders to shut down businesses and impose statewide mask mandates, announced a new executive order last August to prohibit public officials from forcing employees to get injected with the vaccinations. However, officials and employers across the state have since ignored his executive order, and the order’s supposed protections will also expire when the coronavirus statewide disaster declaration ends in September 2023, “leaving local politicians in liberal urban areas free to do as they wish.”

“So if we are ever going to end this COVID Emergency before September of 2023, [state lawmakers] are going to have to come into session for a fourth special session to address this,” Rinaldi said.

Thus far, Abbott has declined to reconvene the state legislature to cement the protections into state law — though on one occasion last September, he did add a limited vaccine mandate ban to state lawmakers’ to-do list, yet with only eight days left in their special session.

Will Abbott Act?

Recently, roughly 30 state legislators have publicly urged Abbott to call another special session to finally address the problem.

“I think 30 is a pretty significant amount and shows great support among legislators for it,” Rinaldi said, adding they’d of course want to see more. “Legislators are usually very deferential on these issues of calling a special session … You know, most would sit back and let the governor do it on his own time. I think this shows significant support for a special session sooner rather than later.”

Rinaldi said the Texas GOP is calling for similar laws as at least 10 other states who’ve already prohibited coronavirus vaccine mandates. He also said legislatures in places such as Tennessee and Florida got the work done in a matter of days.

“We think Texas should follow suit, and we think we can do it fairly quickly,” he said.

Rinaldi added though business leaders have understandably objected because “it would put them in a position of having to either violate a federal mandate or violate state law,” he said that one recent proposed law, dubbed the “Texas COVID Freedom Act,” could work.

“We believe [State Rep.] Brian Harrison’s bill is one that accomplishes the goal of pushing back against vaccine mandates, effectively banning vaccine mandates in the state of Texas, without putting businesses in a position to be penalized on a state level.”

Rinaldi said citizens need to act, especially as officials and businesses across the state threaten them over the shots.

“Call your legislator, ask him to join the growing group of legislators calling for a fourth special session to ban vaccine mandates to effectively implement Greg Abbott’s executive orders and write them into law,” Rinaldi said, emphasizing that the state legislature needs to act sooner than later.

“If we have [another] special session, it’s going to take 90 days for any bill to take effect, and it’s clear that if the Supreme Court does not rule against the Biden vaccine mandates, there’s going to be a three month period where working Texans are going to be subject to these vaccine mandates with no pushback from the state government.”

Concerned citizens may contact their state representative, senator, or the governor.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.