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Nebraska senators looking for special session on COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 5:58 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Less than a week after Gov. Pete Ricketts said there weren’t enough votes to call a special session of the Unicameral to discuss vaccination mandates, 26 Nebraska state senators are doing just that.

State Sen. Ben Hansen and Robert Clements sent an email to their fellow senators asking them to support legislation banning government and educational entities in Nebraska from installing COVID-19 vaccine mandates. A similar ban signed into law in Iowa has prompted an ongoing legal battle with the ACLU of Iowa and a mother in Council Bluffs.

The Nebraska state senators, who are looking for enough support to call a special legislative session, say their goal is to protect workers from losing their jobs over such mandates.

State Sen. Carol Blood, who announced last month that she would seek the Democratic nomination for governor, responded to the request asking that the senators also remove the legislation that makes Nebraska an “at-will” employment state.

In a release from Hansen’s office about the push for the special session, he and Clements say the session isn’t about questioning the science behind COVID-19 vaccines or otherwise taking a stance on them, nor it is about preventing schools from requiring vaccinations.

Ricketts said last week that if he knew of 33 state senators who were willing to vote in favor of banning vaccine mandates, he would call a special session, but stopped short of saying he was working to gather such a contingent.

According to the news release, the following state senators have signed the letters:

  1. State Sen. Joni Albrecht of Dist. 17
  2. State Sen. John Arch of Dist. 14
  3. State Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Dist. 23
  4. State Sen. Tom Brandt of Dist. 32
  5. State Sen. Tom Brewer of Dist. 43
  6. State Sen. Tom Briese of Dist. 41
  7. State Sen. Robert Clements of Dist. 2
  8. State Sen. Myron Dorn of Dist. 30
  9. State Sen. Steve Erdman of Dist. 47
  10. State Sen. Mike Flood of Dist. 19
  11. State Sen. Curt Friesen of Dist. 34
  12. State Sen. Suzanne Geist of Dist. 25
  13. State Sen. Tim Gragert of Dist. 40
  14. State Sen. Mike Groene of Dist. 42
  15. State Sen. Steve Halloran of Dist. 33
  16. State Sen. Ben Hansen of Dist. 16
  17. Speaker Mike Hilgers of Dist. 21
  18. State Sen. Dan Hughes of Dist. 44
  19. State Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Dist. 18
  20. State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Dist. 39
  21. State Sen. John S. Lowe Sr. of Dist. 37
  22. State Sen. Mike McDonnell of Dist. 5
  23. State Sen. Mike Moser of Dist. 22
  24. State Sen. Dave Murman of Dist. 38
  25. State Sen. Rita Sanders of Dist. 45
  26. State Sen. Julie Slama of Dist. 1

Read the senators’ letter

Dear Colleagues,

I hope everyone had a great weekend and got some rest. This email is to let everyone know that today, Sen. Clements, myself, and others will be delivering a letter to Secretary of State Evnen’s office to request a special session to consider legislation to prohibit employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccines and legislation to prohibit governmental and/or educational entities from mandating COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of receiving services. This would protect Nebraska workers from losing their jobs because of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. We didn’t want to leave anyone out of the opportunity of signing onto the letter, so if you or your staff would send your electronic signature to my email, bhansen@leg.ne.gov, I will include you in the letter. This is not signing onto any specific legislation.

By signing the attached letter, you would officially be signing your name to the request to the Secretary of State, asking for a special session.

For those of you who choose not to sign the letter, a certified letter will be sent to your address asking for your signature to go into special session.

We want to be clear in the intent of calling this special session. It is not to affect mask mandates, question the science of vaccines, prevent schools from mandating current vaccinations to attend K-12 school, support the effectiveness of alternative treatments, say whether vaccines in general are good or bad or to consider any other non-relevant topics. It is solely to discuss and adopt legislation to prohibit employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccines and legislation to prohibit governmental and/or educational entities from mandating COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of receiving services.

I have included a copy of the letter to be delivered and appreciate your time to read it. We have already well exceeded the required ten signatures. If you wish to be included in the initial request letter, we would need a reply with your electronic signature by 1:00 pm today.

Have a good rest of your day.

Best regards,

Sen. Ben Hansen and Sen. Robert Clements

Read Sen. Blood’s response

I think it would be fantastic if you follow up with your draft to eliminate legislation that makes sure Nebraska is no longer an At-Will state. This means employees can be dismissed for any reason at any time and without notice when an employment contract or other governing principle is not in effect. Employers can even fire their employees for no reason at all. This includes vaccines.

You can't cherry pick which part of that policy you want to honor and which part you don't. If you are concerned about workers rights, you must be concerned about all of their rights including protecting LGBTQ rights.

This pandering is damaging to their cause as it gives hope to these people who believe they can create change. Have you called the Chamber(s) of Commerce and your big corporate donors to ask them if they are willing to open this door to eliminate At-Will law?

I have grave concerns where this is going and I fear you are bringing false hope to these people for political gain. That may not be the case, but optics appear otherwise.

State Sen. Carol Blood

Assistant News Director Cassie Crowe contributed to this report.

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