Battle over Texas vaccine mandates taking shape as third special session begins

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The third special session of the 87th Texas Legislature got underway Monday, and so did the battle over COVID-19 vaccination mandates within the state.

KXAN counted 10 bills already filed as of Monday afternoon — six in the House of Representatives, four in the Senate. Nine were filed by Republicans and one was filed by a Democrat.

The GOP proposals include banning proof of vaccination in public or private schools, imposing penalties on companies and hospitals that terminate or deny employment to the unvaccinated, and keeping insurance companies from denying or limiting benefits to those who have not received their COVID shots.

Edgewood Republican Sen. Bob Hall filed three of the bills ahead of the third session, including one that would amend the state labor code to extend workers’ compensation benefits for “injuries caused by employer-required COVID-19 vaccine.”

Governor Greg Abbott — who issued an executive order in late August banning vaccine mandates by government agencies and entities — urged lawmakers to take up the topic during the 30-day session as one of his five legislative priorities.

On the Democratic side, Dallas-area Sen. Nathan Johnson filed legislation that would allow bars and other establishments that serve alcohol to request exemptions from the governor’s ban on vaccine passports.

KXAN also spoke with Austin Sen. Sarah Eckhardt who said she plans to once again file a bill to add a COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required shots for students in grades K-12.

“It’s very important for government to step in, to lean in, and make a public health determination that there is a way to avoid this, and it’s called the vaccine,” Eckhardt said.

“Mandates are tough for Texans to swallow, almost regardless of political party,” Republican political consultant Ray Sullivan said before adding, “The flip side: prohibiting local school districts or local businesses from taking action to protect their employees and the people they serve, that’s a tough one, too.”

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