Vaccine Mandates and the California Legislature, Biden Administration

Date: September 10, 2021

A report on September’s flurry of activity in Sacramento and in Washington D.C.

California had already joined other states and local governments regarding vaccine mandates, with Gov. Gavin Newsom ordering the state’s roughly 2.2 million health-care workers to either get vaccinated or lose their jobs while also directing state workers and teachers to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

A team of legislators were advocating and negotiating a pair of bills in the final two weeks of the session that would have gone further than Newsom’s order by including workers in both the public and private sectors.

One bill would have required all workers to either receive the coronavirus vaccine or submit to weekly testing. It included 24 hours of paid leave time for obtaining a vaccination. Another bill sought to make sure state law protected businesses that chose to require their workers to be vaccinated while also extending paid sick leave for up to 40 hours per week for anyone who can’t work because of the virus.

The more restrictive mandate bill was scrapped last week (Aug. 31-Sept. 3) with the author stating she would try again in 2022. The permissive bill was still alive this week (Sept. 6-10) but died after the clock expired on getting the bill amended. While one business organization was neutral on the measure, a host of other business organizations expressed opposition to adding additional paid leave mandates. Not all organized labor organizations were on board with the vaccine requirements.

Is legislation necessary? More than 80% of people 12 and older in California have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the California Department of Public Health. That puts California among states with the highest vaccination rates.

President Announces National Vaccine Initiative

While California was deciding its vaccine legislation, President Biden announced on September 9 “that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees, that together employ over 80 million workers, to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week.”

NFIB’s Position on Federal Vaccine Initiative

From Kevin Kuhlman, NFIB Vice President of Federal Government Relations: “We will continue to review President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan, and, in particular, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that proposes to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations or frequent testing by businesses with 100 or more employees, mandating that such businesses compensate employees during certain periods in which the employees are not working. The businesses that could be subject to the costly and burdensome ETS include many small businesses the President’s Plan noted ‘create two-thirds of net new jobs and employ nearly half of America’s private workforce.’ Small businesses face daily challenges from pandemic requirements, locating qualified workers, rampant inflation, and supply chain disruptions. Small business owners and their employees want to operate in a safe and healthy manner that allows them to stay open. Additional mandates, enforcement, and penalties will further threaten the fragile small business recovery.”

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