Whether the Lt. Governor will support other legislation from Senators aimed at prohibiting COVID mandates remains unclear.
The Biden Administration began issuing sweeping federal COVID vaccine mandates last fall, raising concerns among conservative Mississippians across the state.
Governor Tate Reeves and Attorney General Lynn Fitch have pushed back on those mandates, even signing on to legal challenges that made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawmakers have said constituents have asked them to pass legislation aimed at reining in such government intrusion into their lives.
Local school districts, as well, have imposed masking mandates absent specific legislative authority to do so, testing the boundaries of their reach and further prompting conservatives across the state to call for lawmakers to clarify what is allowable and to provide protections from such heavy-handed mandates.
Early last week, talk at the Mississippi Capitol began to stir as to whether bills filed to restrict government entities from imposing COVID vaccine or masking mandates would receive a fair shot in the State Senate. It was wildly assumed lawmakers in the House were amenable to such efforts given previous comments from Speaker Philip Gunn.
Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson, who has been a strong advocate for pushing back on federal mandates, shared a tweet that added fuel to those speculations.
“Pray for the Mississippi legislators who have filed conservative bills to push back against illegal mandates,” Gipson tweeted on Thursday. “I believe the majority of Senators and House members would pass these bills, but they are being bottlenecked by just one or two. In the end, I know Freedom will win.”
Pray for the Mississippi legislators who have filed conservative bills to push back against illegal mandates. I believe the majority of Senators and House members would pass these bills, but they are being bottlenecked by just one or two. In the end, I know Freedom will win.
— Commissioner Andy Gipson (@CommAndyGipson) January 27, 2022
Later that day, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed HB 1509 that would prohibit any state or local government from imposing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. It also bans those entities from discriminating against anyone based on their COVID vaccination status. The bill passed by a vote of 75 to 41.
That House bill, once it overcomes a motion to reconsider, will be sent to the state Senate where it will be assigned to a committee for consideration. But it does not address other concerns citizens have requested action on during this session, namely masking and end of life considerations.
Sunday evening ahead of HB 1509 reaching the chamber, State Senator Chris McDaniel posted a Facebook message saying these anti-mandate bills “are being blocked by Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann.” He urged concerned citizens to contact their representatives and push for that bill to be passed on the floor.
In a video message on Friday, State Senator McDaniel outlined three bills on the Senate side that would provide similar approaches to stopping discrimination based on COVID vaccine status as well as prohibiting mask mandates, particularly related to school districts. Those bills were:
- SB 2850 – It would prohibit school districts and other political subdivisions from implementing mask and COVID vaccine mandates.
- SB 2368 – It would prohibit mandatory COVID vaccinations of residents or as a condition of employment.
- SB 2045 – It would prohibit discrimination based on COVID vaccination status or possession of an immunity passport.
In that video McDaniel states that because Lt. Governor Hosemann is against these bills they “have been stopped.”
Another bill in this same line of thinking it SB 2417, the “No Patient Left Alone Act,” that would ensure a minor or adult in the hospital has the ability to designate a visitor with unrestricted visitation. It would prohibit the hospital, the State Department of Health, or any governmental entity, notwithstanding declarations of emergency declared by the Governor, from not allowing a patient from having someone by their side will receiving treatment or at the end of life.
That bill, too, faces the potential for dying in the Senate at Hosemann’s hand, McDaniel says.
“In other words, they will not make it to the floor it looks like. They will not be voted on this year,” the state Senator says, adding, “If these bills don’t move out of committee by Tuesday of next week [tomorrow], these bills will be dead and Mississippians will not receive any protection from these mandates, whether they be from Washington or from some overzealous administrator in state government.”
Y’all Politics reached out to Lt. Governor Hosemann’s office for comment early Monday morning, asking whether he would support HB 1509 being taken up in the Senate, what his position was on such bills, and if he was blocking similar Senate bills as McDaniel stated.
Below is what was sent and subsequently shared on Hosemann’s social media attributed to the Lt. Governor:
“I have received the Covid-19 vaccine and booster, which I believe contributed to the lack of symptoms I experienced during my second bout of the virus. I am hopeful citizens will continue to visit with their healthcare professionals and follow their advice.
“I know preventing Covid-19 vaccine mandates is a very important issue for citizens in Mississippi. I support bringing House Bill 1509, which prevents Covid-19 mandates and has already passed the House floor, to a vote in the Senate and I anticipate it will receive a favorable response.”