Conflicting Biden and Abbott vaccine rules leave Texas businesses confused

State News

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas businesses are left questioning whether to follow the state or the federal government, the day after Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning any entity in Texas from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine.

Last month, the Biden administration issued an executive order requiring federal contractors to get the shot. President Biden also instructed OSHA to create a rule that would mandate businesses with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated.

There’s a $1,000 maximum fine for any entity that does not comply with the Governor’s latest order.

Nexstar Media reached out to the Governor’s office asking if any entities had been fined for opposing his previous orders with similar penalties, but his office said that would be enforced by local and state law enforcement. So far, Nexstar has not gotten any reports of this happening.

Both Texas-based Southwest Airlines and American Airlines issued statements Tuesday, saying they will be sticking with the federal government’s orders.

“According to the President’s Executive Order, federal action supersedes any state mandate or law, and we would be expected to comply with the President’s Order to remain compliant as a federal contractor,” a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said in part,

“We will continue to follow all Orders closely and keep our Employees updated on any potential changes to existing policies,” the spokesperson continued.

But some businesses and corporations are still evaluating their options.

“If you’re a business that falls within the federal mandate, you’ll go ahead and do that or continue to do that,” Texas Politics Project director Jim Henson said, “If you’re somebody who’s inclined to resist this, well, the governor has given those folks some degree of rationale, if not completely legal cover, to do that.”

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R – Texas) said he’s waiting to see how state lawmakers handle the issue since the Governor also added the topic to this special session’s agenda.

“As a recovering lawyer, and a recovering judge and former Attorney General, I think the limitations placed on government by our constitution are important to protecting our individual freedom. So I think that debate will occur where it needs to occur, which is in the halls of the legislature,” Sen. Cornyn said.

State Rep. James White, (R – Hillister), already filed a bill this session that would make Abbott’s order state law.

“Transparency is not always evident in an executive order. When you have it legislatively, legislative lawmaking, you have open hearings, you bring in experts, you bring in both sides of the coin,” Rep. White explained.

Rep. White said he believes Pres. Biden’s orders are unconstitutional, which is why he thinks the state has this authority.

“That is the government using businesses as an agent to actually achieve something that the government wants to achieve, not necessarily the business,” White said.

But, Democrats say the same of the Governor’s order.

“I think the Governor has far-exceeded his power under the emergency act here in Texas,” U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D – Austin) said in Austin Tuesday.

Either way, it’s expected to end up in the courts.

“The question remains whether what the legislature will do in terms of actually legally mandating. And then what, what usually happens in this situation is then somebody files a lawsuit, and it goes to court,” Cornyn said.

There’s only one week left in this special session, but bills like Rep. White’s have already been filed prior to the Governor’s call. One is set for a hearing in committee on Wednesday, already.

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