Capitol Comments Articles
Special Committee on the Impact of COVID-19 Mandates Recommends Bills and Special Session

COVID19 Vaccine (Nov. 9, 2021) – Today, the Special Committee, chaired by Senator Renee Erickson (R-Wichita), received an update on federal action from the Office of Revisor staff regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services interim final rules. The committee also discussed current court cases making their way through the district court systems, including a stay in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on the OSHA rules for private businesses.

The committee heard from Mark Chenoweth of New Civil Liberties Alliance and former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who discussed the exemptions and constitutional questions surrounding those exemptions and possible testing requirements for OSHA. Kobach testified regarding the federal pre-emption and if a federal agency can override a state statute or state constitution. In addition, he argued the OSHA standard may not meet the national criteria to be pre-emptive in nature.

The legislative committee provisionally introduced two pieces of legislation dealing with vaccine mandates.

  • rs 2356 – Vaccine Mandate; Exceptions – Provides for exceptions for religious/medical objections to vaccination; further defines the process of requesting the exceptions. Provides a civil course of action (district court; attorneys fees awarded if they prevail) for those employees with grievances.
  • rs 2357 – Unemployment Benefits7 – Allows those terminated because of refusal to meet a vaccine mandate to access unemployment benefits. Also allows those currently on unemployment insurance to refuse to accept otherwise suitable work if the employer requires the vaccine mandate as a condition of employment.

The committee has scheduled a hearing on the two bills at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov.12. The committee also voted to recommend calling a special session by petition with a likely date of Nov. 22 to discuss the two bills. The legislature will have to have a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to meet the petition threshold.