November 3, 2021 |

Watered-down versions of House Bills 1001 and 1002 are moving through the Senate this week. Both pieces of legislation passed second reading Tuesday.

The day started with a fiery debate over an amendment that would have restored the original intent of House Bill 1001, which addresses employer mandated inoculations for COVID-19. The financial interests of big businesses and hospitals were well represented during the debate. So were the concerns over state sovereignty and the constitutionality of Joe Biden’s executive order mandating COVID shots. Lost in the debate was the voice of the little guy and the gal, who now will have to choose between their job and the jab that is faulty at best and risky at worst.

On Monday, a Senate committee added language that took the teeth out of the bill. The new wording prevents the state from blocking the mandate until Wyoming prevails in its court case against the White House.

Senator Cheri Steinmetz offered the amendment to protect workers. Opponents the amendment picks a fight Wyoming can’t win. Steinmetz said the amendment would block businesses from mandating the shot while Wyoming’s lawsuit against the federal overreach is argued in the courts.


The amendment went to the crux of why the special session was called the first place. Would Wyoming lawmakers stand up to Washington? Would they stand up for the rights of citizens to make their own health care decisions? And if not, why not?

Senator Dave Kinsky of Sheridan argued against the amendment. Kinsky cautioned for a safe approach, saying the Biden White House would pounce on Wyoming hospitals if the state went its own way and rebelled against the mandate.


Senator Larry Hicks of Carbon County characterized the cutoff of Medicare and Medicaid funding as a political bluff. Would Washington really put the lives of the sick and elderly at risk in an election year? Hicks said he could not predict what Washington would do, but it did little good for the state to give into fear.


Passions ran high on both sides of the issue. Senator Lynn Hutchings of Cheyenne stood in support of the amendment and in favor of state sovereignty. As she spoke, Hutchins held up a copy of the U.S. Constitution and referred to Article 1 — the Legislative Branch. She said the constitution was “our rule book.”


If Hutchings argued for state sovereignty, others argued for their own self-interests and businesses. Senator Mike Gireau of Jackson Hole last week admitted on the floor of the Senate that he gave employees at his businesses bigger bonuses recently if they had received the COVID shot. He then voted against a bill that would make discrimination on the basis of vaccine status illegal. Yesterday, he said the bringer of the amendment was proposing an old Western shootout between Wyoming and Washington with his business caught in the crossfire.


Senator Bo Biteman of Sheridan said that by removing the language that would have created a law that would have stood in opposition to the federal mandate, HB 1001 was a useless and meaningless objection. Biteman said that’s not what his constituents wanted from the special session.


The vote couldn’t have been closer. After the voice vote, Senate President Dan Dockstader thought the “ayes” had it. A subsequent head county showed the vote was actually deadlocked. In the Wyoming Senate, a tie is the same as a fail.


After the time and expense of the special session, the Wyoming legislature will not stand in the way of federally mandated inoculations for COVID-19, no matter how faulty their efficacy or the risks they might carry. Tamed down versions of HB 1001 and 1002 will be read a third time Wednesday with approval likely. They will become law when the governor signs them late this week.

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