Wyoming Lawmakers Plan Anti-Vaccine-Mandate Special Session

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming lawmakers plan to hold a rare special session next week to counter President Joe Biden's proposal to require COVID-19 vaccination for certain workers.

Whether the session Oct. 26-28 in Cheyenne, at a cost of $25,000 per day, proceeds to discussing legislation remains to be seen. Disagreement over rules could lead to adjournment at the outset, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.

One bill being drafted would ban vaccine passports. Another would impose a $500,000 fine for firing, demoting, promoting, compensating or refusing to hire employees based on vaccination status.

Both are sponsored by Republican Rep. Chuck Gray, of Casper. A bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Tom James, of Rock Springs, meanwhile, would provide for fines and jail for any public servant who tried to enforce federal vaccine mandates.

Even if approved and signed into law by Gov. Mark Gordon, such bills may lack legal force. The U.S. Constitution prohibits state statutes from superseding federal law.

How lawmakers will get to the point of considering legislation also remains to be seen.

Although a simple majority — 36 of 59 in the House and 18 of 30 in the Senate — voted last week to hold the special session, there's a higher bar to approve rules for the session.

Two-thirds of each chamber would need to approve rules for the session to be proposed by legislative leadership. The leaders plan to seek to adjournment if legislators don't approve their rules, according to a memo from Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, and House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette.

If lawmakers don't vote to adjourn, they might default to the rules of the most recent session last winter. That could prolong the session by allowing bills outside the scope of vaccine mandates to be considered.

Lawmakers could also hash out a different set of rules requiring a two-thirds vote.

Biden has not yet revealed specifics of his plan to require vaccination for health care workers, federal employees and contractors, and workers at businesses with over 100 employees. Gordon and other Republican governors have vowed to challenge the mandate in court.

The Legislature held a short, virtual special session in 2020 to allocate emergency spending related to the coronavirus pandemic. The last special session before that was in 2004.