(The Center Square) –The Texas Senate passed a bill prohibiting private employers from mandating employees and contractors get COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment.
It was the fifth bill the Senate passed in a marathon session on Thursday that lasted 15 hours.
The bill was filed by Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston, and co-authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. It passed by a vote of 19-12.
It bans private employers from adopting or enforcing a COVID-19 mandate “requiring an employee, contractor, applicant for employment, or applicant for a contract position to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment or a contract position.”
It authorizes employees to file complaints about alleged employer violations with the Texas Workforce Commission. Employers could face up to a $10,000 fine per violation. If an employer is fined, the bill allows for the TWC to recoup investigative costs.
“I had a similar bill in the regular session that failed to pass in the House, so I’m grateful Governor Abbott put this issue on the call of the 3rd Special Session,” Kolkhorst said. “No Texan should ever have to choose between making a living and being coerced into partaking in medical interventions against their personal judgment.”
After the bill passed, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said, “Over the past few years, too many Texans have had to decide between their jobs and their health. As Lt. Governor, I have championed legislation prohibiting any governmental entity from imposing mask or vaccine mandates on employees to make sure that Texans are not forced to make that decision.
“The passage of SB 7 will return medical freedom to Texans and ensure that they will not lose their livelihood over their personal health decisions. The Texas Senate will pass this bill over and over again until it passes the Texas House.”
The bill was referred to the House State Affairs Committee.
Patrick also noted that the Senate passed five priority bills identified by Abbott on the third special session call.
“Yet again, the Texas Senate’s superb work ethic was on display for all to see,” he said on Friday. “During yesterday’s marathon floor session lasting 15 hours, the Senate passed 5 of Gov. Abbott’s 6 emergency items, including school choice, teacher pay raises, border security, increasing penalties for human smuggling and banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates for private employers.”
He pointed out that the Senate passed its school choice and teacher pay raise bills twice before during the regular and first special session. The Senate also six times passed provisions of its border security bill. It also twice passed a bill imposing stronger penalties for human smuggling. It previously passed the private employer vaccine mandate prohibition “months ago during the regular session,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the Texas House, under Speaker [Dade] Phelan’s leadership, never came to an agreement on any of these bills during the regular session and they all died. Now, one week into the special session, the House has not even scheduled a single hearing, let alone passed a single bill,” Patrick said.
“Texas parents want school choice to pass. Texas teachers want pay raises. Texans expect stronger border security. Texas workers do not want to be forced to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The House needs to get to work because Texans are watching.”