'A huge gamble': Here’s the 'narrow path' Utah Republicans hope will help them dodge Biden’s vaccine mandate
President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate isn't a total vaccine mandate — as Americans working for companies with 100 or more employees have the option of taking a COVID-19 test once a week if they choose to remain unvaccinated. Still, countless Republicans are trying to fire up their base by railing against Biden's executive order, and in Utah, GOP lawmakers are, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, looking for possible ways to undermine it or get around it.
Tribune reporter Bryan Schott explains, "Biden's announcement brought immediate condemnation from Utah's Republican elected leaders. Attorney General Sean Reyes said he planned to challenge any such rule in court while legislative leaders began exploring options for blocking it."
Biden's executive order is being implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor through the Occupation Safety Health Administration. Schott notes that under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, "federal law wins" when there is "a conflict between federal and state law" — which, he reports "effectively ties legislators' hands" in Utah "as they search for a response." (OSHA)
"They could always pass a resolution, but it would not have the force of law behind it," Schott observes. "But there is a narrow path that lawmakers believe could bear fruit. It has to do with the way OSHA operates in Utah."
Schott explains, "Utah is one of 22 states that enforces workplace safety through a 'state-run program.' In Utah, instead of OSHA, the program is called Utah Occupational Safety and Health (UOSH) and is funded by a mix of state and federal money. In the current fiscal year, $2.5 million of the budget for UOSH comes from federal sources and about $1.15 million is from state money. While federal funds cover a substantial part of the budget, the state's portion of the money is why lawmakers believe Utah may have some wiggle room."
Nonetheless, Schott notes that "Utah could be making a huge gamble if they decide to pick a fight with OSHA over Biden's mandate."
A spokesperson for the Utah Labor Commission, quoted anonymously, told the Tribune, "Our agreement with the federal government is that our state plan will be at least 'as effective as' federal OSHA. If we refuse, it is possible that we could be considered 'not as effective as' — and federal OSHA could take some sort of action."
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