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Mid-South lawmakers push back against federal vaccine mandates

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 6:50 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - All U.S. businesses and federal contractors with 100 or more employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or submit to regular testing.

Republican leaders in Tennessee and Arkansas are among the first to issue challenges.

“The result of these mandates is to create a hardship on people, businesses and our effort to get people back to work,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.

Attorneys General in both Tennessee and Arkansas are joining lawsuits fighting the new mandate for federal contractors.

On Thursday Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery called the order unconstitutional and said it would hurt an already suffering labor force.

University of Memphis Law Professor Steve Mulroy says working will be a major factor in any challenges to the mandate for businesses.

“OSHA has made the determination that the pandemic is a grave danger,” Mulroy said.

Mulroy says the mandate uses emergency powers to expedite a rule because, according to OSHA, workers may be in grave danger.

He says if the rule is challenged in court the term “grave danger” will likely be a key focus.

“Typically the courts are going to defer to the discretion of agencies,” Mulroy said.

Last week, Tennessee lawmakers passed rules barring anyone from asking for proof of vaccination, with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee speaking out against the impending OSHA rule.

However, Mulroy says the January deadline will likely take precedence over state laws.

Today Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves called the mandates “tyranny” and said the state will fight back, likely filing a lawsuit challenging the orders by the end of this week.

In Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge joined a suit with ten other states last week challenging the demand on federal contractors.

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