Texas Legislature to Consider COVID Vaccine Mandate Ban for Employers in Special Session

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is tasking the state Legislature to enact a COVID-19 vaccine mandate ban for private entities by placing the issue on the agenda for an upcoming special session.

Abbott's request comes after he signed an executive order Monday which banned any businesses in Texas from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine for company employees or to prevent customers from entering or utilizing a business.

The governor noted in the new order that "vaccines are strongly encouraged for those eligible to receive one, but must always be voluntary for Texans."

Abbott's new order directly combats the Biden administration's directive to require a COVID-19 vaccine or weekly testing for employers with more than 100 workers.

The Texas Legislature began the special session on September 20, initially to work on the state's redistricting process and weighing new rules for transgender student-athletes.

Abbott's order follows a similar mandate ban in Montana. The state passed a law in 2020 that prevents COVID-19 vaccine mandates for workers. Other states have banned schools from requiring the vaccine, but has not extended the measure to private businesses.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott creates order against vaccine mandate. On Sept. 22, 2021. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks before he signs Texas SB 576, an anti-smuggling bill that enhances the criminal penalty for human smuggling when a payment is involved, in McAllen, Texas. Joel Marinez/The Monitor/Associated Press

Texas has seen a recent decrease in newly reported COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. But a rising death toll from the recent surge caused by the delta variant has the state rapidly approaching 67,000 total fatalities since the pandemic began in 2020.

Abbott's new order also carries political implications. The two-term Republican is facing pressure from two candidates in next year's GOP primary, former state Sen. Don Huffines and former Florida Congressman and Texas state party chairman Allen West, have attacked Abbott's COVID-19 policies and have strongly opposed vaccine mandates.

"He knows which the way the wind is blowing. He knows conservative Republican voters are tired of the vaccine mandates and tired of him being a failed leader," Huffines tweeted.

West recently tested positive for COVID-19. He was briefly hospitalized, but also tweeted he remains opposed to vaccine mandates. West announced Monday on his social media accounts that he had returned home.