Wyoming state capitol stock

The state capitol building sits in Cheyenne.

 

After seven days, much debate and tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent, the Wyoming Legislature passed one bill addressing COVID-19 vaccination mandates Wednesday. 

While some legislators promised to go to Cheyenne and fight the federal government and protect Wyoming citizens’ individual rights, the bill resulting from the session actually does very little. 

House Bill 1001 outlines the state’s objections to the mandates President Joseph Biden has announced, but ultimately admits the state may need to comply. It states, while Wyoming will prohibit public entities at the state or local level from enforcing federal COVID-19 mandates on employers, entities that could lose federal funding for defying the mandates are exempt. And, it continues, if the federal law withstands the barrage of court challenges it now faces, the federal rules will preempt state law.

In Wyoming, about 25% of the state’s revenues come in the form of federal funding. Legislators have spent years discussing the dire financial situation the state faces. Wyoming cannot, practically, do without federal funding. This is true despite suggestions that Wyoming give up federal funding and Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan — who has routinely opposed any new taxes — suggesting that Wyoming citizens may be willing to “double our taxes if we could still remain free.”

In addition, while railing against federal overreach, some legislators proposed mandates from the state. Wyoming conservatism often centers around local control, business and individual freedom. Despite that, at times during the weeklong debate, those principles seemed to disappear. Mandates became acceptable, as long as they were conservative mandates. Which is worse? Federal mandates, state mandates or being stuck between the two?

While individual citizens should have the choice whether they receive a specific medical treatment, punishing businesses and employees in an attempt to take a stand against the federal government would certainly prove detrimental to Wyoming’s economy, which already faces enough challenges.

Less than 24 hours after the Wyoming Legislature approved House Bill 1002, the U.S. Department of Labor announced its new workplace safety rules, which require employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing and requires nearly all health care facilities to require employee COVID-19 vaccinations. 

That HB1002 primarily served as a chest-thumping tirade aimed at the federal government and does little to address the issue of overreach was predictable before the governing body gaveled in Oct. 26. The one silver lining is that legislators provided the governor’s office with $4 million to arm itself for litigation, because the battle over vaccination mandates will not be won in state legislatures. It will be won in the courts.

 

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