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.