A group of lawmakers today sent a letter to Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell, in his role as Acting Governor of Oklahoma, requesting executive action to prohibit vaccine mandates for Oklahoma healthcare workers. This letter is a follow up to one sent to Governor Kevin Stitt on July 15, 2021. Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, spearheaded the letter and said that the urgency of the situation necessitates the need to act swiftly and decisively.
“I have been working to identify issues at our state’s healthcare facilities. I have discovered that not only are more facilities moving towards mandating the COVID-19 vaccine, but they are denying legitimate medical and religious exemptions,” said Roberts. “I have received reports from verified healthcare employees that individuals with signed medical exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine are being told their exemptions will not be honored. The collective takeaway from these messages is that the time to act is now and if we don’t, we may be facing a healthcare employee shortage crisis.” (story continues below)
According to Roberts, the transfer of powers to the Lt. Governor when the Governor is outside of the state is found in Article 6, Section 16 of the Oklahoma Constitution. The constitutional provision provides that the Office of Governor is transferred to the Lt. Governor when the Governor is removed from the state. This includes all powers held within the Office of Governor. Roberts, and those signed onto the letter, believe that the current situation requires the immediate action of the state government and has led to the urgent request for Pinnell to act.
“It is unacceptable to force a vaccination on an employee, especially when they have a documented medical issues,” said Roberts. “We have received reports from Oklahoma Families for Freedom that medical facilities have been denying in-person treatment to unvaccinated individuals as well. This is medical discrimination and must stop”.
The following lawmakers signed on to the letter:
Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy
Rep. Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks
Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont
Rep. Mike Dobrinski, R-Okeene
Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane
Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland
Rep. Mark Vancuren, R-Owasso
Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore
Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener
Rep. David Smith, R-Arpelar
Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola
Rep. Wendi Stearman, R-Collinsville
Rep. Chris Sneed, R-Fort Gibson
Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula
Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow
Rep. David Hardin, R-Stilwell
Rep. Sherri Conley, R-Newcastle
Rep. Danny Williams, R-Seminole
Rep. Max Wolfley, R-Oklahoma City
The full text of the letter can be seen below:
Oklahoma House of Representatives
July 28, 2021
Acting Governor Pinnell,
As I am sure you are aware there are many healthcare facilities across the state that have decided to mandate the COVID-19 vaccines to their thousands of employees. These employees are the heroes that stood on the front line of the pandemic caring for those that had fallen ill to COVID-19.
Many Oklahomans are about to have their paychecks used against them to make a medical decision that goes against their beliefs. Healthcare workers are left to choose between taking a vaccine authorized for emergency use or risk losing their job, this goes against “liberty and justice for all.” If we do not protect the individual’s right to choose what goes in their body, we no longer live in a free society.
The Oklahoma legislature had bills introduced last session that were related to these type of vaccine mandates, but none of these bills came to be law. Some other states in the country have taken action on these issues while others already had laws on the books to protect their healthcare workers. For example in Oregon, employees such as health care providers, health care facility employees, clinical lab employees, law enforcement, and firefighters are protected by a 1989 state law that says “A worker shall not be required as a condition of work to be immunized” unless otherwise required by federal or state law.
After talking with healthcare workers and citizens across the state many of my colleagues and I have come to the conclusion this is an issue that requires the immediate attention of our State Government. The quickest and most effective way to protect these workers is an executive order prohibiting these mandates.
Those signed onto this letter and I respectfully request you draft an executive order to deal with this issue. If you deem this to be an issue the legislature needs to take care of, we respectfully request you call the legislature into special session to end medical tyranny and help us secure and protect our most basic human rights and civil liberties.