On Thursday, a group of Republican activists, officials, lawmakers, and Texans affected by vaccine mandates hosted a press conference imploring Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to add a prohibition of vaccine mandates to the ongoing special session agenda.
Imploring Abbott to Outlaw the Mandates
For the state Legislature’s October special session, Abbott already charged them to consider:
Legislation regarding whether any state or local governmental entities in Texas can mandate that an individual receive a COVID-19 vaccine and, if so, what exemptions should apply to such a mandate.
Abbott’s charge stops short of demanding state law to prohibit government officials or private employers from forcing COVID vaccines on citizens.
Texans at Thursday’s press conference admonished the governor to take action to outlaw the practice.
“This is very unjust, unethical, and unconstitutional. We are here making sure that this does not happen to so many other people across the country,” said Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse who was fired in June from the Houston Methodist Hospital System for refusing to take a COVID vaccine.
“Unfortunately, [the mandates are] spreading, not only between healthcare workers, but every other walk of life, every other business out there. We need to protect these people and keep them all from going through the same thing that we did, from the turmoil, and the anxiety, and just losing your livelihood.”
Another speaker was Dawn Richardson, the director of state advocacy for the National Vaccine Information Center.
It is highly disturbing that so many legislators have been responding to their constituents who are calling them saying that their jobs are threatened and yet these bills are not moving in this special session. Most of these bills have not been assigned to a committee, they’ve not been scheduled for a hearing, and we are limited where the call for the special session is limited to explore the question on whether or not the government can mandate vaccines.
We need the governor to add this to the special session, to the call. We also need leadership in the House and in the Senate to allow and help support these bills move forward. The citizens of Texas deserve to have our elected representatives debate these bills on the merit and talk about them. Squashing them in the outset and not even grieving them a chance, that is not acceptable.
Pushing back against a common argument used against them alleging that Texas does not interfere with private businesses, Richardson went on to say:
The governor had no problem shutting down businesses over COVID that resulted in many businesses having to close their doors forever, so he should add this. We have to set some reasonable limits. It is unreasonable to force a person to take a vaccine that can possibly cause injury and death.
Lawmakers in attendance included Republican State Sen. Bob Hall (Edgewood), and Republican State Reps. Steve Toth (The Woodlands), Briscoe Cain (Deer Park), Cody Vasut (Angleton), Bryan Slaton (Royse City), James White (Hillister), Mayes Middleton (Galveston), and Valoree Swanson (Spring). All of them have legislation that is currently filed to address vaccine mandates.
“Unfortunately, we have too many elected officials who seem to have forgotten that the primary purpose of government is to protect individual liberty,” said State Sen. Hall. “Many individuals across our state and nation are facing a devastating choice: whether to take a vaccine they do not want or leave their jobs, forfeiting their means to provide financially for themselves and their families.”
“No modern-day American regulation has ever required a person to undergo a high-risk, irreversible, possible life-changing and life-threatening medical procedure just to be able to feed their family. My office has heard from many people throughout Texas who are being required to get the COVID vaccine in order to keep their job.”
“Don’t you find it a little odd that hardworking, taxpaying Americans are being forced to take a shot, while those unemployed and on government services aren’t? That’s just an odd thing,” said State Rep. Briscoe Cain. “To say that you can choose between your career or an immunization is not a choice, it’s force; and force is the opposite of freedom.”
“How in the world can we say that we live in a free society when people are losing their jobs because they chose not to take a vaccine for religious reasons?” said State Rep. Bryan Slaton.
“We have to be bold. We have to send a clear message to the federal government that we are going to stand up and we are going to defend individual liberties. Because if we don’t do it as Republicans in Texas, who will?”
State Republican Leadership
Meanwhile, Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi recently created the Special Committee on Vaccine Mandates within the Texas GOP apparatus and charged them with advocating for legislation banning all public and private vaccine mandates.
During the ongoing special legislative session, though several pieces of legislation have been filed relating to prohibition on vaccine mandates, none have moved forward in the legislative process or been prioritized by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick or House Speaker Dade Phelan, who are both Republicans.
Similarly, several pieces of legislation were filed in the regular legislative session earlier this year, but lawmakers did very little to address employer vaccination mandates.
What Does it All Mean?
The ongoing special session is currently on Day 18 of a maximum of 30 days. Many lawmakers are now publicly alluding to yet another special legislative session to address some of the items currently on Abbott’s agenda.
It is unclear whether Republican legislative leadership or Abbott will act to prioritize a prohibition on public and private employer vaccine mandates before the conclusion of this special session or in any future special session.