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I think it is important to tell my constituents where I stand on Covid-19 vaccine and mask mandates. As you might imagine, I have received numerous calls and emails lately on this topic. There is great concern about federal overreach and the idea of being forced to do something that violates personal choice and possibly religious beliefs.
On September 9th, President Biden issued an executive order mandating Covid-19 vaccinations. According to the Associated Press:
Some employers such as Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha and 3M in Valley are saying they will lay off employees that choose not to get the vaccine. People have contacted me about tough decisions they may be forced to make regarding doing something that they do not want to do versus leaving a job they have held for years.
In the first session of the 107th Legislature, Senator Ben Hansen of Blair introduced LB 643. I am a cosponsor of this bill. The intention of the bill is “To maintain the individual liberty, parental rights, and free market principles of the citizens and businesses of Nebraska during a state of emergency declared by the Governor, or anytime thereafter, it is the right of each citizen, the right of parents with respect to their dependents, and the right of each business with respect to its employees, to accept or decline a mandatory vaccination directive by the Nebraska
state government. Declining a mandatory vaccination directive will deliver no implication, penalty, litigation, or punishment by the state to the citizen, parent, or business.” This bill was introduced early in the session, and we had no way of envisioning the subsequent actions of the Biden administration. The bill has been referred to the Health and Human Services Committee, of which I am a member. The language of the bill will likely be updated to reflect mandates from the federal government as well.
As you may have seen, there is talk of calling a special session to deal with this issue. I am in favor of this. However, the realities of a single-house legislature come to bear. Proponents of the mandates will likely filibuster any bill calling for personal choice, religious exemption, or any other proposal limiting the mandates. It takes a vote of 33 senators to end a filibuster. At this point, neither Governor Ricketts or Speaker Mike Hilgers believe there are enough senators willing to vote to overcome any filibusters.
In one of his recent legislative updates, Senator Steve Erdman of Bayard, my colleague and friend, said that “Vaccinations are a private healthcare matter between an individual and his or her physician. No government agency or employer has the right to make decisions about another person’s health. President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate is unconstitutional and violates a person’s liberty, including his or her religious rights, privacy rights, and healthcare rights.” This is the stance I am taking as well, and this is what I will base any votes on, whether during a special session or in the regular session starting in January.
I would welcome any comments, questions or ideas you may have on this or any other issue. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com or call my office at 402-471-2732.