Idaho sues over vaccine mandate covering college campuses

(UPDATED, Nov. 1, with details about Tuesday’s State Board of Education meeting.)

Idaho has joined a multistate lawsuit against a federal vaccine mandate that could extend to the state’s colleges and universities.

At issue is the Biden administration’s Executive Order 14042, which would require federal contractors and their employees to get the coronavirus vaccine. Since Idaho universities have $89 million in federal contracts, the order applies to campuses.

“Tens of millions in university research dollars are at stake,” Gov. Brad Little said in a news release Friday evening. “This is coercive federal overreach, and it must be stopped.”

Idaho Education News reported first on the executive order and its implications for the state’s universities; click here for Wednesday’s story.

Idaho’s State Board of Education is a party to the lawsuit. However, the State Board must vote to ratify this, and the board has scheduled a virtual meeting for 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon to discuss the matter.

Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Universities in at least two of these states — Alabama and Kansas — had said the executive order left them no choice but to require vaccines.

The order, scheduled to go into effect Dec. 8, affects all contractor employees, but allows workers to seek religious or medical exemptions.

In a letter to Biden Friday, Little also decried the potential impact on private employers.

“Many Idaho businesses of all sizes engage in contracts with the federal government to provide products and services that ensure our country can function properly. Now, business owners who pursued the American dream and worked to fill important needs for our nation are being coerced into policing your vaccine mandates,” Little wrote. “Some of these Idaho contractors have been in longstanding business relationships with the federal government, and changing their contracts midstream forces them to choose between losing their employees or giving up their business. It is just plain wrong.”

The letter does not mention university contracts and research.

Three lawsuits have been filed protesting the Biden order. Florida filed a similar lawsuit. Another coalition of states — Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming — has filed its own lawsuit.

The legal developments come only days after movement on Idaho’s legislative front.

On Monday, Idaho legislative leaders said they would reconvene the 2021 session on Nov. 15 — and possibly take up bills to address vaccine mandates.

 

Kevin Richert

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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