Texas House passes ban on COVID-19 vaccine mandates by private employers

The Texas House passed a bill that would ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates by employers.

The Senate introduced this bill and passed it two weeks ago. Now, action from the House has the bill close to heading to the governor’s desk. 

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"This body is about to pass the nation’s strongest COVID-19 vaccine mandate ban," 

Texas is one step closer to banning private employers from adopting or enforcing COVID-19 mandates.

The CDC said COVID-19 vaccines work well to prevent severe illness, but the vaccines do not stop the spread of the virus as medical experts initially hoped.

Texas House lawmakers on both sides of the aisle debated Senate Bill 7.

"Texans value freedom and liberty deeply, and I truly believe you cannot have freedom without medical freedom," said Rep. Brian Harrison, who represents District 10.

"This bill is not a need or a priority of which we should be here in special session," said Rep. Ann Johnson, who represents District 134.

The bill reads, "an employer may not adopt or enforce a mandate requiring an employee, contractor, applicant for employment, or applicant for a contract position to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment or a contract position." 

Initially, the bill included a $10,000 fine for companies in violation, but an amendment was added to increase a penalty to $50,000. 

The bill has an exemption, however, to allow health care facilities, providers, and physicians to require PPE — such as masks — for the unvaccinated. 

"What’s interesting about this instance is that now the roles are reversed. That you have Republicans in the legislature arguing for business regulation and you have others arguing that businesses should be able to set their own rules. So we see the roles reversed and it kind of depends whose ox is gored," SMU constitutional law professor Dale Carpenter said.

Carpenter said that if the bill becomes law, lawsuits from businesses will likely be unsuccessful.

"As long as a law is even rationale, as long as it’s arguable, it’s permissible," he said.

Most House Democrats voted against the bill.

"It’s easy to say, ‘Well, the worst has passed,’ but we don’t know that," said Rep. Vikki Goodwin, who represents District 47.

All House Republicans voted in favor, believing COVID-19 vaccines should not be mandated.

"I believe that is a violation of theirs and mine, and all Texans’ fundamental constitutional rights and liberties, and I believe this body should take a stand against it," Rep. Jeff Leach, who represents District 67.

Before it goes to Governor Greg Abbott for approval, the Texas Senate has to approve changes made by the House.

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