Expert: Federal executive order mandating vaccines trumps state order barring them

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HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order this week banning companies in Texas from requiring employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine in response to a September order by President Joe Biden requiring businesses with over 100 employees to mandate vaccinations or test employees weekly for COVID.

In his executive order banning private businesses from requiring employees to be vaccinated, Abbott said he was issuing the order to combat government overreach by President Biden.

Dr. Clyde Barrow, the chair of the UTRGV Political Science Department said Abbott’s executive order will have very little effect because a federal executive order trumps anything at the state level.

“The governor of Texas doesn’t have the authority to override the President’s executive order, it’s that simple,” Barrow said.

Abbott’s order states that it applies to any entities in Texas, but any company that does business across state lines can be regulated under federal jurisdiction according to the interstate commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution and must follow President Biden’s order.

On top of that, thousands of people in Texas work for the federal government and must follow their guidelines as well. “[Abbott] has no authority over federal employees, he has no authority over federal contractors, he has no authority really – probably – over most businesses with 100 employees or more because all of them do business on an interstate basis,” Barrow said.

Barrow said that most of the businesses this order would impact are small business that have fewer than 100 staff because it is less likely that they participate in any form of interstate commerce.

Abbott issues executive orders citing the public disaster declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic as justification for the order.

There is no clear indication on what would signal the end of the disaster since there are several things that could constitute a disaster besides a pandemic, such as a hurricane or an ice storm.

“Theoretically we would rely on the CDC to make that decision,” Barrow said on what would constitute the end of the COVID-19 disaster, legally speaking. “Governor Abbott has indicated he is not inclined to follow the advice of the CDC or any federal agency on this matter.”

The Texas government code says the governor decides when the disaster is over.

Sec. 418.014 of the Texas Government Code pertains to a disaster declaration.

Granting the governor emergency powers under a disaster declaration happens so decisions can be made swiftly to help fix problems that arise due to the disaster, which everyone would agree COVID-19 is.

But Barrow said that Governor Abbott using those disaster powers to stop businesses from requiring vaccination against the COVID-19 virus was sending a mixed message.

“The irony of his exercising those powers is they are intended for the purpose of trying to save people’s lives and to improve and protect public health, not endanger it,” he said.

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