It’s been a busy fall for lawyers in the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office.
As of Friday, Oklahoma is challenging President Joe Biden’s push to require the COVID-19 vaccine for military, health and some private employees in five separate ongoing lawsuits.
During a press conference last week on the status of those challenges, Stitt renewed his argument that Biden overstepped his powers when he announced a set of vaccine requirements.
“President Biden doesn’t trust Americans to make decisions for themselves,” he said. “Luckily, our constitution does. That’s why (Oklahoma) Attorney General John O’ Connor and I are fighting back against President Biden’s federal overreach every step of the way.”
In October, Biden announced executive orders that will specifically require vaccinations for all federal workers and millions of private-sector federal contractors and healthcare workers. It will also require private employers with 100 or more employers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly.
The policy comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 12,000 Oklahomans and nearly 750,000 Americans in less than two years. State, federal and international health leaders agree that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at helping protect against severe disease and death from the virus. The CDC states “the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks, which are rare.”
During last week’s press conference, O’Connor said he is vaccinated and his concerns are not with the vaccine itself. But minutes later, when asked why the state is opposing this specific vaccine when the military and others require vaccines for a host of other viruses, O’Connor said “the science isn’t really clear on this COVID vaccine.”
That earned stiff and immediate pushback from the state’s medical community.
“With respect to the AG, to question the science that we’ve been working on for two years globally, I think, is misunderstanding the science,” said Oklahoma State Medical Association President Mary Clarke during the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition’s weekly COVID-19 briefing, according to the Tulsa World. “Questioning the science is a gross misrepresentation of how we do things in medicine.”
The state’s volley of legal challenges comes after the GOP-led Legislature earmarked $10 million to the attorney general’s office earlier this year to challenge federal laws. But it remains unclear if the state will succeed in court or if Stitt’s streak of losing high-profile legal challenges will continue. Here’s a look at where the five cases currently stand:
- On Dec. 2, Stitt, O’Connor and 16 Oklahoma Air National Guard members sued in U.S. District Court to stop the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement for federal employees and the National Guard.
- On Nov. 15, O’Connor and 11 other state attorneys general filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. On Nov. 30, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to halt the mandate from taking immediate effect, but the case has not been argued before a judge.
- On Nov. 12, O’Connor filed a lawsuit against Ascension Healthcare in the District Court of Tulsa to block the health-care provider from implementing its employee vaccination mandate. A temporary restraining order was soon after issued to stop the mandate, but Ascension filed a motion seeking to dismiss the case Wednesday, claiming the state lacks standing to bring the challenge.
- On Nov. 5, O’Connor and six other attorneys general filed a lawsuit challenging the Biden Administration’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration vaccine requirement for private sector employees. The case has been assigned to the conservative leaning, 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Ohio, following a ping-pong lottery.
- On Nov. 4, Stitt and O’Connor filed a lawsuit against the Biden Administration to stop its mandatory vaccination requirement for federal contractors. The mandate is on hold while the case is being heard.
What do you think? Should Oklahoma be spending money and resources challenging the federal government over vaccine mandates? Or is it a worthwhile expense? Let me know your thoughts by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or finding me on Twitter at @tbrownokc.
The Top Story
More than a year after Oklahoma officials announced the privatization and relocation of the state’s public health lab from Oklahoma City to Stillwater, the transition has been anything but smooth.
Oklahoma Watch‘s Paul Monies interviewed former lab and health department employees and reviewed documents obtained under the Open Records Act to reveal new findings about the questionable move of the public health lab amid a pandemic. [Read More …]
Thursday marked former Gov. Mary Fallin’s 67 birthday, according to this tweet from the Women’s Public Leadership Network.
Fallin, who served as the state’s 27th governor of Oklahoma from 2011 to 2019, has kept a low political profile since leaving office and has largely stayed out of the press.
What I’m Reading This Week
- The state Department of Education is investigating “allegations of fraud, suppression of fraud, intimidation and harassment in the workplace” made against Epic Charter School’s board chairman by its former vice chair. [Oklahoma Watch]
- The U.S. Supreme Court could decide by early January whether to consider major questions about its 2020 ruling that the Muscogee (Creek) reservation was never disestablished, including whether to overturn the decision. [The Oklahoman]
- The state legislative committee providing oversight of Oklahoma’s American Rescue Plan funds recommends giving $7.5 million toward a renovation and expansion of the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital emergency department. [Public Radio Tulsa]
- A local political action committee says it plans to spend $500,000 on television, radio and digital ads critical of Gov. Kevin Stitt. [The Oklahoman]
- Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz on Tuesday outlined a 15-year, $5 billion roadway improvement plan that includes widening the rest of the Turner Turnpike. [Tulsa World]
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