Oklahoma is preparing to go to court, again.

This time Gov. Kevin Stitt announced on a video message that he and Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor are ready to sue the Biden Administration if and when the federal emergency rules are in place.

The moves comes about a month after President Joe Biden announced that he plans to order a new vaccine mandate that will cover about 100 million American, including thousands of Oklahomans.

Biden’s executive order will specifically require vaccinations for all federal workers and millions of private-sector federal contractors and health-care workers. It will also require private employers with 100 or more employers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly.

In a statement released Thursday, O’Connor said those rules have yet to be in place as he urged “Oklahoma employers to disregard the Biden Administration’s wishes.”

He said he will join other attorney generals, likely from other Republican-led states, in suing the administration to stop the rule from taking effect once they are issued. Stitt similarly said he believes the state will win in court.

“This action is not just federal overreach. It’s unconstitutional,” Stitt said. “Getting the vaccine is a personal choice. Period.”

Stitt went on to point out that he received a vaccine and noted that “the COVID vaccine is our best defense against severe illness.”

He, however, differed with some of his fellow Republican in the Legislature who have been asking Stitt to call a special session to ban private employers from making their own vaccination mandate requirements.

“I don’t believe it’s the government’s job to dictate policies to private companies,” he said. “Just as I believe Joe Biden can’t tell businesses they have to mandate a vaccine, I don’t believe the government should tell a company they can’t.”

Although many in the Republican party have supported Stitt’s vow to sue the Biden administration, he has received criticized from lawmakers on the other side of the political aisle.

“I understand that nobody likes a mandate, but if Republicans want to find someone to blame for the president’s actions, they should look in the mirror,” House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said after Biden announced his policy last month. “Last November, when 1,400 Oklahomans had died of COVID, our caucus asked Governor Stitt what his plan was to keep that number from getting to 2,000. Today, 10 months later, more than 8,000 Oklahomans have died, and we are still waiting on a plan from the governor.”

What do you think? Should there be a mandate for federal, health care and private businesses to have their employers vaccinated? Let me know know your thoughts by emailing me at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org or find me on Twitter at @tbrownokc.

The Top Story

Jennings Stone, located south of Ada, is among several rock quarries granted permits by the Oklahoma Department of Mines in the last few years. Now, a group of nearby residents who had concerns over the aggregate mines’ use of groundwater want the agency to redo the permit process after they uncovered a conflict between a hearing officer and an attorney for the companies. (Google Earth Photo)

Mine Foes Make Conflict-Of-Interest Arguments To State Supreme Court Referee

The Oklahoma Department of Mines put its thumb on the scales of informal hearings for proposed aggregate mining permits when it failed to tell all parties that a hearing officer and an attorney for mining companies used to be married and had a child together, an Oklahoma Supreme Court referee heard Wednesday.

But Oklahoma Watch’s Paul Monies reports that the agency’s attorney said the groups suing to restart the permitting process for six rock quarries in south central Oklahoma should take their complaints through the Department of Mines’ existing administrative route before petitioning the high court. [Read More]

Tweet Watch

Oklahoma lawmakers will return to the Capitol in less than a month for a special session to complete the state’s once-every-decade redistricting work.

But the public has yet to see what proposals lawmakers will be looking at. While many other states have released their maps, or even have passed their new plans, some are urging Oklahoma officials to release their plans now.

This includes People Not Politicians, a statewide group that came up short earlier this year in trying to get an independent redistricting commission formed, who have been urging lawmakers to hurry up on Twitter.

The Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Redistricting, however, will be meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to hear presentations on the 10 congressional map submissions sent by members of the public. This likely will be the final step before lawmakers unveil their plan sometime after that meeting and the start of the special session on Nov. 15.

What I’m Reading This Week

  • Canoo, a start-up electric vehicle company, has yet to turn a profit and its vehicles are still in development, but Oklahoma has offered the company a package of incentives valued at $300 million to help build a factory in Pryor. [The Frontier]
  • While Oklahoma is making improvements in reducing the spread of COVID-19, the state still has a way to go to reach herd immunity, officials said Thursday. [Tulsa World]
  • Reproductive rights supporters have filed an appeal asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to put three anti-abortion laws on hold, including restrictions on medication-induced abortions. [The Associated Press]
  • Oklahoma’s 77 county treasurers are holding $80 million of property tax payments in escrow that they cannot immediately apportion to school districts, technology centers and county health departments owing to valuation disputes between energy companies and county assessors. [NonDoc]
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to hinder student learning, education leaders and policy experts agreed Tuesday while offering differing views on the extent of the setbacks. [Tulsa World]

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