BOISE (AP) — Idaho Gov. Brad Little has vetoed legislation that would make it illegal for most businesses to require the coronavirus vaccine.
“I am vetoing this legislation because I am a lifelong advocate of limited government,” Little wrote in his transmittal letter on Monday, saying the bill “significantly expands government overreach into the private sector.”
Several states have passed laws either requiring vaccines for certain employees or barring government agencies from issuing vaccine mandates. But broader bans against business vaccine requirements are rarer.
Last year, Montana became the first state in the nation to ban most businesses from requiring vaccines as a condition of employment. That law, like the one proposed in Idaho, cited “discrimination” as the reason.
Montana’s law was challenged in federal court, however. Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that coronavirus vaccine requirements could remain in effect for health care workers whose employers accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, at least as long as a related interim federal rule remains in place.
Idaho’s bill, dubbed the “Coronavirus Pause Act,” would have subjected public and private employers to a misdemeanor charge punishable by a $1,000 fine if they require vaccines as a condition of employment or service. It includes exemptions for situations involving federal law, existing employee-employer contracts, and businesses that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
“I have been consistent in stating my belief that businesses should be left to make decisions about the management of their operations and employees with limited interference from the government,” Little wrote. “For the same reason, I sued to stop President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates three times, successfully challenging his unprecedented government overreach into the lives of American workers and the decisions of free businesses.”
Late last week the Idaho House and Senate both adjourned until Thursday, giving them time to wait out any vetoes from Little. At the time, Republican Senate President Pro-Tem Chuck Winder cited the Coronavirus Pause Act as one of the bills the lawmakers were watching.
“It’s difficult to override a veto,” Winder said late Friday night. “But we think that’s the only way we can do it, if we hang around for five days.”
The Coronavirus Pause Act passed both chambers with large margins, but not a veto-proof margin in the House. Proponents said it would prevent businesses from discriminating against those who don’t want to or cannot be vaccinated. But opponents said the measure allows discrimination against people who are vaccinated and doesn’t protect vulnerable people. The bill would have even applied to families that hire in-home workers, but it would have expired in April of 2023 — one year after the termination of all state emergency declarations related to coronavirus.