Wyoming’s House and Senate voted separately Tuesday against fast-track rules for the special legislative session called to fight pending federal COVID-19 standards and regulations.

Both chambers also rejected motions to adjourn and instead will consider 10 of the 20 pre-filed bills through mostly standard legislative rules that call for committee hearings, multiple readings and floor debate.

House Speaker Eric Barlow (R-Gillette) assigned six bills to various committees, including the two with the most co-sponsors. Senate President Dan Dockstader (R-Afton) sent four bills to committees for hearings, including a housekeeping measure to correct an error in previous Gaming Commission legislation.

The House failed early in Tuesday’s proceedings to reach a two-thirds majority of elected members necessary to adopt the streamlined standards, with 37 of 60 representatives backing the fast-track rules. In the Senate the fast-track proposal earned 18 aye votes from the 30 members, also falling short of the necessary supermajority.

Both chambers rejected motions to adjourn by significant margins. Adjournment required approval by only a simple majority of those present to pass.

It’s uncertain how long the session will last; lawmakers had set only a three-day schedule.

Some Republicans joined Democrats to oppose the fast-track plan. Rep. Lloyd Larsen (R-Lander) told colleagues they were trying to shoehorn three weeks of work into three days.

Some bills contemplate fines and imprisonment, Larsen said, adding “this requires some time to contemplate.

“If I am going to be here,” he said, “if I am here, I want to do it right.”

House committee lineup

House Speaker Barlow assigned House Bill 1-COVID-19 vaccine employer mandates to the Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee for further action. The measure, one of two sponsored by the most legislators, would prohibit employers from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment.

President Joe Biden has asked the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to set standards that would require businesses with 100 or more employees to require workers to get a vaccine or submit to a weekly COVID-19 test. His plan would have the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid require employees of institutions receiving federal aid under those programs to be vaccinated.

The Judiciary Committee will consider House Bill 2-federal COVID vaccine mandates-prohibition and remedies-2.​​ That measure would prohibit public entities from enforcing any COVID-19 vaccination requirement until federal requirements take effect and any challenge to those requirements is exhausted.

The minerals committee also will debate House Bill 5-COVID-19 vaccine mandate-exemptions “requiring an employer to grant exemptions for any COVID-19 vaccine mandate.” The same body will mark up House Bill 9-COVID-19 response-2, which would make employers liable for firing a worker over vaccine requirements.

The House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee will consider two bills. House Bill 6-Vaccine requirements-limitations would require health care facilities and providers of essential services to offer reasonable accommodations to persons who are unwilling to provide proof of immunization. It also would allow school children to opt out of vaccinations.

That panel also will consider House Bill 13-Unemployment benefits-failure to comply with federal law. It would preserve unemployment benefits for persons who leave jobs if their employers don’t toe federal COVID-19 standards.

Senate committees also active

Three committees in the Senate will be active. The Senate Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions; Appropriations; and Labor, Health and Social Services will consider the three bills addressing COVID-19. 

Corporations will debate Senate File 4-COVID-19 vaccinations-employer prohibition-2. That bill would prohibit employers from requiring COVID 19 vaccinations. Those who break the law would be subject to a $750 fine and up to six months imprisonment.

Appropriations will consider Senate File 3-COVID-19 discriminatory practices-prohibition. It would prohibit discrimination based on COVID-19 vaccination statues, including in health insurance and education.

Senate Labor committee members will mark up Senate File 9-COVID-19 response, a mirror of the House bill of the same number.

Committees were meeting Tuesday afternoon and possibly evening in preparation for floor sessions in both the House and Senate on Wednesday.

The particulars of House Bill-2 have been corrected — Ed.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. What are the idiots gonna do? Secede? Lotsa luck to ya if that happens. Wyoming would last about a month on the food it produces…

  2. I find this bill boondoggle to be somewhat disingenuous Kabuki in light of Wyoming’s horrible and now highest death rate due to Covid per capita in the country.
    They display a total disregard for the rights of those who want to live in a safe Covid free environment.
    That being said my assessment is these legislators should be ashamed of themselves for pandering to their base with patently illegal legislation that can go nowhere.

  3. Not one of these bills should be enacted into law. Similar terrible ideas have been rejected even in Texas, where the Governor and legislature are far right extremists, because they recognized the harm their partisan posturing would do to small businesses trying to keep workplaces safe. The answer to “overreaching” Federal regulations – even if you do believe they are overreaching, and the majority of Americans do not – isn’t to impose a bigger bunch of regulations that are still more Draconian. At the very least, the Wyoming Legislature should amend anything it’s considering to apply only to businesses with 100 employees or more – the size at which the Federal ones would kick in. Otherwise, it is not only reaching farther and deeper than the Fed with its own regulations but doing great harm to our state, 98% of whose businesses are small.

  4. This looks like a real mess. Please refer to my suggested Free Market solution under Drake’s piece. I disagree with so many things that the Health Departments and other agencies are doing to business and society in general, but this really looks like it will be a cluster that will result in endless litigation.
    The Federal Government is already running roughshod over the people and many state and county agencies and boards and businesses are simply towing the line and acting as facilitators. The people who feel this are pulling back from larger social interaction to protect their sanity. Fortunately we still have our friends, family and neighbors. Those relationships are limited by the same dynamics however, and people are having to choose between their personal beliefs and attending family functions and events. Please think about respecting another person’s personal liberties, and know that no one has a right to dictate another person’s health decisions. This year has been difficult already and is only becoming more so. Cherish your circle of friends and family. We only have one life.

    1. Agreed. It is certainly convoluted. Some members appear to be making it deliberately so. Your suggestion for the Free Market would be a logical proposal for most small businesses with the possible exception of those that rely on government contracts which demand compliance (according to the debate). Employees of large businesses and government entities would also not be free (again presented in the debate). It’ll be interesting to see the final drafts, what passes, and what the governor signs. At least there is a process. Sadly, we wouldn’t even be here in the first place but for the federal (feral? /s) mandates.

      Kudos to Thuermer for his concise, neutral coverage . . . . a welcomed improvement from his predecessor!

  5. That’s a pretty remarkable set of legislation. Not only are some of the legislators anti public health but they are anti business as well. Who would have thought?

  6. A representative shouldn’t have to be congratulated for doing their job correctly. But, thanks Lloyd Larsen and Cale Case for not voting to fast track the clown show of a special session. Its only a matter of time before the chrump lemmings start calling you both RINO’s