So-called COVID-19 “vaccine passports” are prohibited under Abbott’s active executive orders and legislation he signed into law earlier this year, but employers are not barred from mandating the vaccination as a condition of employment.
The increased political pressure comes as the Biden administration pursues policies to force businesses to require the vaccination and companies such as Southwest Airlines have issued such mandates on its employees.
“[D]espite your efforts, Texans’ personal liberties and rights continue to be violated by employers across our great state. This has become a most desperate hour for individual Texans who are being told they must accept administration of a COVID-19 vaccine or lose their jobs,” said the Texas GOP in an open letter to the governor that was signed by RPT Chairman Matt Rinaldi and members of the State Republican Executive Committee.
There are two specific actions that the Texas GOP and legislators have requested from Abbott: add the subject to the call of the current special session and expand his existing executive order to protect employees.
During special sessions such as the ongoing one, lawmakers are restricted by the Texas Constitution to pass only legislation related to the agenda items set by the governor.
Special sessions are limited to a maximum of 30 days, meaning that the current session will end no later than Tuesday, October 19.
“Time is running out to protect vulnerable Texans who are having to choose right now between losing their livelihoods or accepting forced administration of a COVID-19 vaccine,” said the RPT letter.
“A number of our conservative legislators have already filed bills to protect these Texans and your fast action in adding this issue to the call is needed to ensure that the rights of millions of working Texans are legislatively protected and not further violated.”
Several Republican lawmakers participated in a press conference last week on the subject along with Guardians of Medical Choice, a group started by Houston nurse Jennifer Bridges after she was fired by Houston Methodist Hospital for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Vaccine mandates do not stem from science, especially since they do not allow room for those with natural immunity to the sickness. Vaccine mandates are about control, whether they come from the government or forces in the private sector such as employers,” said Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood).
Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) urged people to help the item get added to the special session agenda, saying that “until this issue is added to the special call, our chances of success are dismal.”
Other representatives in attendance at the press conference include Reps. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville), Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City), Valoree Swanson (R-Spring), Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands), Cody Vasut (R-Angleton), and James White (R-Hillister).
Abbott’s top primary challengers in the upcoming gubernatorial election, including former state Sen. Don Huffines and former Texas GOP Chair Allen West, have taken a position against employer-mandated vaccinations.
Huffines has called out Abbott on the subject broadly, saying that he “must stop blocking the Texas Legislature from passing bills to ban vaccine mandates in Texas.”
West, meanwhile, has been specifically critical of Abbott in regards to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate within the Texas National Guard. “Unless on active-duty orders, the Commander-in-Chief of the Texas National Guard is the Governor, not Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin,” said West.
At the time of publishing, Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment regarding the call for action from the RPT and lawmakers.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.