87th LegislatureState HouseState SenateBacking for Fourth Special Session Builds as Federal and Private Vaccine Mandates Spread

Federal and private vaccine mandates have become the focal point of growing calls for a fourth special session and a state legislative response.
November 30, 2021
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The prospect of a fourth special session is methodically building support among Texas legislators.

Thus far, 25 state legislators have publicly called for a fourth special session to ban both public and private vaccine mandates through legislation. Currently, both are prohibited under executive orders by Governor Greg Abbott

All over the country, vaccine mandates have been issued in various capacities — both public and private — and many are being challenged in court. The federal government’s mandates are garnering the most attention. One, enforced through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), required all businesses to mandate either employee vaccinations or weekly testing. Another requires all federal government contractors to be vaccinated.

Texas is among the numerous states suing the White House over the edicts on multiple fronts. The OSHA mandate was paused temporarily by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on November 6, but a final decision has not been issued and the case was transferred to the Sixth Circuit.

The other case, focused on the contractors mandate, is currently before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

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But many other similar lawsuits have been filed with mixed results. Just yesterday, a suit led by a United Airlines pilot from North Texas was denied an injunction by Texas U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman. That decision has since been appealed to the Fifth Circuit.

Another lawsuit, filed by Texas’ First Liberty Institute on behalf of Navy SEALs who were denied a religious exemption from the military’s vaccine mandate, is still working its way through the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Some of those opposed to the vaccine mandates are pushing for a legislative response to the Biden administration’s directives. That push has been led by the Republican Party of Texas, its Chairman Matt Rinaldi, and a group of legislators.

The initial crop of 16 lawmakers who called for another special session in mid-November include:

  • Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood)
  • Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg)
  • Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park)
  • Rep. Jeff Cason (R-Bedford)
  • Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian)
  • Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth)
  • Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano)
  • Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville)
  • Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler)
  • Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano)
  • Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City)
  • Rep. Valoree Swanson (R-Spring)
  • Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington)
  • Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands)
  • Rep. Cody Vasut (R-Angleton)
  • Rep. James White (R-Hillister)

Since then, two state senators and seven state House members have added their names to those calling for another special session, specifically to ban vaccine mandates. They are:

  • Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney)
  • Sen. Drew Springer (R-Muenster)
  • Rep. Keith Bell (R-Forney)
  • Rep. Cole Hefner (R-Mt. Pleasant)
  • Rep. Candy Noble (R-Lucas)
  • Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress)
  • Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound)
  • Rep. Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville)
  • Rep. David Spiller (R-Jacksboro)

In Texas, only the governor can call the legislature in for a special session. When asked about a fourth of 2021 last week, then about renewing the Chapter 313 tax code provision, Abbott declined to answer but said “a special session may be called at any time.”

And the issue itself, vaccine mandates and Abbott’s responses, has divided conservatives between those who believe the public and private mandates must be halted by any means necessary and those who believe government should not intercede in private business’s affairs.

Facing a primary, the governor Abbott has embraced more conservative policies than he had previously — hoping to mollify the right wing of the party. But now facing a formidable Democratic challenger in Beto O’Rourke, a balance to that primary focus may be in the cards.

Some legislators believe a fourth special session might be looming ahead in January but nothing concrete has come from the governor’s mansion. Added to the mix, back in October Lt. Governor Dan Patrick called for a fourth special session to increase a penalty for voter fraud that was reduced in the legislature’s marquee election reform bill. He wants another opportunity to approve a 2020 election forensic audit.

The latter item was acted upon on November 19 when the legislature announced the shift of $4 million from other parts of the budget to fund a statewide audit by the secretary of state.

Abbott not only controls if the legislature convenes for a special session, but also which issues it may take up.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.