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Gov. Abbott prohibits vaccine mandates in publicly-funded workplaces

The move closes a loophole that allowed Texas schools and municipalities to mandate the COVID-19 shot as soon as the FDA fully approved any dose.

SAN ANTONIO — Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday outright banned school districts, cities and other Texas municipalities from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for their employees.

A previous executive order barred public employers from that requiring staff take a coronavirus shot which did not have full Food and Drug Administration approval. But the FDA fully approved Pfizer's shot on Monday, opening a loophole in the previous executive order that allowed San Antonio ISD to continue with its employee vaccine mandate, for example. 

Abbott closed the loophole Wednesday, and added the vaccine mandate issue to the list of items lawmakers can debate during the special legislative session that ends Sept. 5. 

The governor wants lawmakers to craft a vaccine mandate law to prevent "patchwork" policymaking. 

"It is appropriate to maintain the status quo of prohibiting vaccine mandates through executive order while allowing the legislature to consider this issue while in session," Abbott wrote in his directive. 

But Rice University political science professor Mark Jones says lawmakers probably do not have enough time to pass related legislation. 

There are 11 days left in session. Since Democrats spent the first two weeks of session in Washington, D.C., the legislature is only beginning to whittle down its agenda. 

"If it gets passed, it'll get passed in the way (Abbott) wants to see it passed," he said. "If it doesn't get passed, then his executive order will hold." 

Either way, a ban on vaccine mandates in publicly-funded workplaces is all but guaranteed, he says. 

Still, San Antonio ISD says it will move forward with its mandate for employees who do not have medical or religious exemptions. It aims to have all staff vaccinated by Oct. 15. 

"I would assume that any San Antonio ISD employee who does not want to get vaccinated would have a pretty good legal standing to say, 'No,'" Jones said. 

Jones expects Attorney General Ken Paxton to take legal action by the end of the week that would end the requirement. 

Only private employers are now allowed to mandate employees take the vaccine. Businesses cannot, however, require patrons to present proof of vaccination to gain entrance to a facility or as a condition of service under state law. 

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