People have been taking to social media to vent their frustrations over Governor Abbott’s decision to not allow state agencies and businesses that get tax funds to ask you for proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. Someone asked the Verify team to find out if that is legal.
On April 6, Gov. Abbott Tweeted a video announcing, “Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives.”
Gov. Abbott’s executive order prohibits government-mandated vaccine passports in Texas. It applies to government agencies and entities that benefit from taxpayer dollars.
Ann asked the Verify team, “Can Governor Abbott really declare vaccine passports illegal in the State of Texas?”
We have two sources for this, Lindsay Wiley, a law professor and director of Health Law and Policy at American University – Washington and Seth Chandler, a University of Houston law professor who specializes in constitutional law.
The governor issued a disaster proclamation on March 13, 2020. Every month, he’s renewed the declaration which gives him the power to issue executive orders. But will this most recent one hold up in court?
“This is unprecedented. We don't know. It's possible that it will be challenged in court. The governor seems to anticipate that there could be challenges to this order in the order itself. He references privacy considerations, and that's important because he's relying on a statute that gives him authority to manage a disaster,” Wiley said.
The statute Wiley is referring to is the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, which allows the governor to “suspend provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business … in coping with a disaster.“
What could be problematic Dr. Chandler says it the governor’s new regulation on private business. That, he says, could face legal challenges.
“I was surprised about the attempt to burden private business because the premise of the governor's order is individual freedom. No one should force you to get vaccinated. I can kind of understand that. But if you believe in private freedom, you also ought to believe that private businesses have freedom. And the way the free market would work this out is a business would make a choice, do I want to require a vaccination passport or not,” Chandler said.
But, whether or not the governor’s ban is illegal, our sources say that remains to be seen.
The governors of several states, including Florida, have also banned vaccine passports. The Biden Administration has repeatedly said it will not impose those laws at the federal level.