The Wyoming Legislature completed the first major step toward holding a special session intended to fight back against a recent federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
For the Legislature to call itself into a special session, two rounds of votes are needed: One that surpasses 35% of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to decide whether a formal vote should take place. That second vote requires a majority of both chambers.
As of Tuesday, the Legislature had attained the necessary votes for the first round of voting.
Roughly 50% of each chamber voted for the special session. No Democrats voted in favor of it.
Members have until 5 p.m. Thursday to vote in the poll. If a special session is approved by a majority of both chambers — which is 30 representatives and 16 senators right now — the session would “likely start on Oct. 26,” Dockstader and Barlow said in a Tuesday press release from the Legislative Service Office.
It remains undetermined whether or not the session will be held virtually or in person.
The first order of business at a special session will be holding a vote on the rules of the session. To adopt them, lawmakers need two-thirds of the membership of both the House and the Senate.
If the two-thirds supermajority is not achieved, legislative leadership “will ask the respective majority floor leader to move for an immediate adjournment of the special session without considering any legislation,” Barlow and Docskstader said in a Tuesday memo.
Technically, if they were not to achieve the two-thirds, lawmakers could use the rules of the 66th Legislature, but that would allow the special session to go on for several days and allow legislators to introduce topics that do not have to do with federal COVID vaccine mandates.
“No, I don’t want to go on for several days and no, I don’t want to consider multiple topics,” Dockstader said.
The rules as now proposed would limit the special session to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, allow members to appear remotely (which would save on costs) and require any bill eligible for introduction to be posted five days prior to the session.
If the lawmakers do reach the majority threshold in the second vote and the supermajority threshold in the vote on the rules, it remains unclear exactly how they will fight the mandate with legislation.
The Biden Administration issued an executive order in early September that mandates employees at private companies with over 100 workers get vaccinated or be tested weekly for COVID-19. In Wyoming, that order would potentially apply to more than 300 companies, according to the governor’s office.
The federal mandate is not yet in effect, and must still go through the federal rule-making process. In practice, this means that it’s next to impossible to know exactly how to fight back against the vaccine mandate until those details are released, multiple lawmakers have previously told the Star-Tribune.
“I think there’s a legal fix in the courts,” Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said at a recent committee meeting. “But I don’t see a way the Legislature can fix this,” he later added.
Final forms of bills must be submitted to the Legislative Service Office by noon on Oct. 21 for posting on the legislative website.
Follow state politics reporter Victoria Eavis on Twitter @Victoria_Eavis