Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Mayor Andy Ogles in studio to discuss the mechanics of Texas Governor Greg Abbot’s new vaccine executive order for employees in the state.
Leahy: An interesting story developing late yesterday. And it looks like Greg Abbott, governor of Texas Republican, is showing some leadership again, leadership that other States could really use, Andy Ogles, Mayor of Maury County. Tell us about what Greg Abbott has done and what he plans to do and why it makes sense.
Ogles: He’s issued an executive order banning all vaccine mandates. Period. Mandates from governments, from businesses, from employers. And then he’s kicked it to the legislature to address it in a special session.
And so that’s important if you’re someone who kind of adheres to the state Constitution is that he’s issued an executive order, but then he’s immediately going to have it backed up by the General Assembly.
Leahy: Then the question would be, as is the case with all of these executive orders around the country that all of these governors are happily and quickly writing and sticking with, as it turns out, does he have a question about the possible legal authority of that executive order?
Ogles: I can’t remember now, if it’s Wyoming or Montana, one of those two states, they did this already. They already passed a law through the General Assembly banning all vaccine mandates.
And to my knowledge, is you have to be challenged in court. I guess that remains to be seen. That being said, it’s important that the General Assembly pass a law. It has better standing in court. So let’s take Southwest.
Leahy: I think that’s exactly what I was thinking as I wait to see if my flight to D.C. is canceled. Hit refresh. Hit refresh. Hit refresh. (Chuckles)
Ogles: It says any entity in the state.
Leahy: So Southwest is headquartered in Texas, right.
Ogles: But what if they weren’t? What if they’re headquartered in Tennessee, but they just have a terminal in Texas? And so that’s where you got to get into the nuances of the legalities.
Leahy: Any legal entity in the state. To get into the weeds of business operations. The way they do this is if you’re a large corporation, let’s say based in New York City, but you have operations in Texas, what that corporation does is it files a legal document to qualify as a ‘foreign entity.’
It’s not really. It’s another state entity. All of the people who work for Pepsi Co. for instance, which is based in New York. All of them that are based in Texas under that executive order, I think they would be exempt from the vaccine mandate.
Ogles: And the other thing the general symbol can do would prohibit any medical establishment or institution from enforcing a mandate. And so you that’s where your General Assembly has to get into the weeds on some of these things.
If you go back in time when you look at some of the governors and their mask mandates, there is some question as to whether or not those actually had legal standing if the General Assembly addresses it. I was given the ability to issue a mask mandate with what came with it, the ability, you could be charged.
Leahy: Supposedly given that ability.
Ogles: That’s right. Well, yeah, I took issue with that. It was unconstitutional.
Leahy: Actually you weren’t supposedly given, you were given the supposed authority. Let’s get our language right.
Ogles: That’s right. The commas matter. There’s nowhere in the state law or state Constitution where I have the ability to put you in jail as a Mayor. It’s the executive branch, I should not have the authority.
Greg Abbott’s done the right thing, is issued an executive order, which he can do quickly and immediately takes effect. But then he’s immediately said, hey, but I need the General Assembly to take this up.
And so a state like Tennessee that has a special session coming up, you now have a template to know how to do your job. And that’s the challenge.
And that is the governor and the General Assembly needs to do their job. They need to follow Texas’s lead. Otherwise, retire, you don’t deserve to be in office.
Leahy: Let’s take this example in Texas as an example. I know somebody in Texas who fits this category. They work for a large hospital chain that’s not based in Texas. They do analysis, but they work for medical records at a high level.
But they live in Texas. Their employer is based in California. Their employer has mandated that they get the vaccine or they’ll be fired. Now help me out with this.
This morning, as my friend is waking up in Texas, I think they’ve got, like, till the end of October, their employer said to get the vaccine or be fired. Now their employer cannot fire them. Or if they do, then they can immediately have cause for legal action. Is that how it would work?
Ogles: Yes. You would assume so. And again, that’s where the nuances of the law are important. Are they going to give a shield for any Texas resident if you live there for more than six months or a year or whatever?
Or however, they define that. You’re now exempt from a vaccine mandate. Then that gives you now the company, on the other end of this equation, has to decide how devoted are they to the mandate and do they want to have this litigated?
Leahy: In this instance, the California company that has told my friend who lives in Texas and works for them from Texas to get vaccinated this morning, they have a decision, right?
Ogles: That’s right.
Leahy: They could still write that letter and they could still fire the employee. But the employee would have recourse under Texas law.
Ogles: That’s right.
Leahy: As long as the executive order stands. But the executive order will be challenged in court, I’m sure. And of course, who knows what they’ll do. But if it’s a law passed by the Texas General Assembly, then it’s much more difficult.
There’s a better likelihood that the Texas employee of a California company fires them because they don’t get a vaccine. And if that becomes a law that they can’t be fired, then they probably would win in court, I would guess.
Ogles: And again, one of those other questions would be is does the law also direct the Texas attorney general to defend?
Ogles: Can they compel the AG to say, hey, and not only do we create a shield for our residents, but we will also represent..
Leahy: Every resident fired by them. I would call that leadership. Because if you look at the individual like you, my friend, feeling helpless because they have a whole series of reasons why they want to take a vaccine mandate, and they know a lot more about it than I do.
I couldn’t win a debate with them because they’re very knowledgeable on these issues. I didn’t try to win the debate because it’s their business, not mine. But all of their arguments have fallen on deaf ears with the California employer, and they’ve been scrambling around.
What do I do? Do I find somebody to defend me? Do I spend the money? How much is it going to cost? How much will it cost to sue your employer? Probably $25,000. It’s you against your employer.
Ogles: And their attorney’s fees. I think the fact that Texas is doing this is significant in that whether it’s Wyoming or Montana doesn’t really matter. They’re small, rural states, sparsely populated, etc.
You have Texas. From a geography standpoint, it’s a large population, huge influence economically. Now if Tennessee and South Dakota, South Carolina, the other, ‘conservative states’ will do this as well, you really assert the importance of the 10th Amendment.
Leahy: I suppose we should send an inquiry to Governor Bill Lee to see if he’s going to follow Governor Abbott’s lead. My prediction, I don’t think we’re going to get a response from him.
Ogles: I sent him a proclamation several weeks ago, begging, begging for him to do this.
Leahy: Has he responded?
Ogles: No, not at all.
Leahy: Of course.
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