Roscoe: Legislative Update — Special Session summary 2021

On Oct. 26, both houses of the Wyoming Legislature convened for a special session. Sixty percent of the Senate and just over half of the House voted in favor of this special session. The purpose was solely to discuss and then create legislation that was against the federal mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccines for employees who work for organizations of 100 or more workers.

Day 1 – Two bills were debated – House Bill 1001 and House Bill 1002. The debate was impassioned on both sides, with many legislators speaking both for and against these bills. House Bill 1001 focused on establishing rules for Wyoming employers if they decided to require COVID-19 vaccination of their workers. House Bill 1002 focused on keeping public entities from enforcing federal COVID mandates.

Day 2 and 3 – Both bills continued in the House, with debate and amendments.

Day 4 – We voted on both bills; both passed and were then sent to the Senate. The Senate mirror bill never passed out of the Senate.

House Bill 1001 failed in the Senate on the third reading. House Bill 1002 passed the Senate on that same day. HB1002 then came back to the House where it was passed on consensus after several back-and-forth votes. Now this bill will go to the governor.

In my opinion, this bill doesn’t do much. What it does is to put employers in the middle of the fight between the state law and the federal law with substantial financial consequences. It was brought up over and over that this bill is bad for business. Wyoming is putting itself in the position of losing large amounts of federal funding. Hospitals and other vital business could close due to this revenue shortage. In a state which worries about cutting funding, this special session will cost taxpayers at least $125,000 – however, the total is not yet known.

Wyoming has always believed government overreach is not welcome, and yet this legislation is our state government reaching into private businesses. Not one statewide business organization supported any of these bills. This is mandating against a mandate. The intent of the federal mandate, which we have yet to see, is to help win this war against COVID-19 and keep our businesses open and earning income, rather than having to shut down. This bill will not help us win this war.

In August of 2021, all branches of the United States Military instituted a COVID-19 vaccine requirement along with the other 17 required vaccines. My conversation with two generals in Wyoming indicated that Wyoming’s decision to not follow the federal mandate may be problematic. One might also reflect that the military enacted this requirement to keep our military forces healthy and strong, which in turn protects our country from external risk.

So why would Wyoming pass legislation that may weaken Wyoming and put it at risk?

Rep. Jim Roscoe, HD22