TOPEKA, Kan. — Some Kansas lawmakers are pushing back against a proposed federal mandate that would require as many as 100 million Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
On Sunday night, five GOP lawmakers began circulating a petition calling for a special legislative session in an effort to revoke the federal vaccine mandate proposed by President Joe Biden earlier this month.
The letter was signed by Sens. Mark Steffen, R-Hutchinson; Mike Thompson, R-Shawnee; and Alicia Straub, R-Ellinwood; and Reps. Trevor Jacobs, R-Fort Scott and Tatum Lee, R-Ness City.
Biden’s mandate, via the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, would require all employers with 100+ employees must either mandate vaccines or test weekly.
Workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated, and employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government will also be required to get vaccinated under Biden’s plan.
“This is, in our opinion, illegal, unconstitutional in many different ways. People have the right to make their own healthcare decisions. This is not something you can take off at the end of the day. If you get the vaccine, you have to live with the consequences, and people should have the right to refuse,” Thompson said.
See the legislators’ full letter below.
To call a special session, the petition would need support from at least two-thirds of all members of each chamber. If the correct number of signatures are collected, all members of the Kansas House and Senate will return to Topeka for a special session on Monday, October 18 at 10 a.m.
It’s unclear how long the proposed special session would last, but Thompson estimates it would cost taxpayers about $65,000 for each day lawmakers are in session.
“It’s a concern because there is a cost to having 165 legislatures return to Topeka in a special session. If we don’t do that, the cost will be even greater in the number of jobs lost and the chaos to the economy,” Thompson said.
On Monday, lawmakers established the Special Committee on Government Overreach and Impact on COVID-19 Mandates to review ways to respond to the federal vaccine mandate proposed by President Biden.
The 11-member special committee will consist of six House members and five senators nominated by the Senate President and House Speaker. Thompson said he hopes the new committee will help set the framework for what the legislature can do if a special session is called next month.
“We just have to give Kansans some certainty about what their future is,” Thompson said. “Whether or not they are going to have to take this vaccine. Whether or not they are going to have to go look for another job. It is going to throw the state into a mess if this mandate goes through.”
According to the letter, lawmakers have also drafted a Patriots’ Freedom Bill that Thompson said would be introduced during the special session next month.