Nebraska Gov. Bars State Agencies from Enforcing Biden’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
October 30, 2021 Updated: October 30, 2021

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, has signed an executive order barring state agencies from enforcing President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates on state employees.

“President Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate is a stunning violation of personal freedom and abuse of the federal government’s power,” Ricketts said in an Oct. 29 statement.

While Ricketts encouraged Nebraskans to get the COVID-19 vaccine, he insisted it’s a personal health decision and “not one that should be coerced.”

“We’ve already made the decision that state teammates at the State of Nebraska won’t be forced to take the vaccine. This order takes the next step and bars cabinet state agencies from complying with coronavirus vaccine mandates from the federal government or other parties,” Ricketts added.

Nebraska is also involved in a lawsuit, filed in a federal district court in Missouri with nine other states, against the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.

OSHA Mandate

In September, President Joe Biden announced that the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would develop an emergency rule for a vaccine mandate with a weekly testing option for businesses with 100 or more employees. It’s estimated that the mandate, which remains under review, would cover about two-thirds of the private-sector workforce.

The Department of Labor later sent the text of an emergency temporary standard to the Office of Management and Budget for review, though neither OSHA nor the White House has provided a firm timeline on when the emergency rule on private businesses would go into effect.

A number of business groups have asked Biden to rescind the rule or postpone it until the end of the busy Christmas shopping season, citing concerns that the mandate might prompt workers to quit, exacerbating the labor shortage and worsening the supply chain crunch.

While the mandate remains under review, White House COVID-19 response team coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters earlier this week that he believes it will be implemented soon.

“The rule will be finalized soon, but we know businesses are already acting,” Zients said at an Oct. 27 briefing.

Separately, Biden on Sept. 9 issued a far-reaching executive order that requires almost all federal employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment, including civilian federal employees and contractors. The order goes into effect on Dec. 8 and while there’s no COVID-19 testing opt-out, religious or medical exemptions from vaccination may be granted, according to the order.

Nineteen states have sued the Biden administration over the federal employee vaccine mandate, arguing that it violates federal procurement law and is an overreach of federal power. The states also argue that the mandate violates the 10th Amendment that separates the power between federal and state governments; uses federal spending to coerce the states, which is unconstitutional; and did not properly allow for 60 days of public comment.

The Biden administration did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

Ricketts, in his executive order (pdf), took aim at the Biden administration’s mandates collectively, saying they “demonstrate massive overreach on the part of the federal government, are legally suspect, and should not, in any manner, be construed to flow through any state government agency contract or those companies with whom state government enters into contracts.”

The order prohibits any Cabinet executive branch agency from entering into contracts or signing memorandums of understanding that impose COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

His order, which goes into effect immediately, also encourages all other executive branch agencies to follow suit.

Mimi Nguyen-Ly contributed to this report.

Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'