BOISE — The Idaho State Board of Education on Tuesday approved a decision joining a federal lawsuit to block contractor requirements in President Joe Biden’s executive orders that include COVID-19 vaccine mandates, but colleges and universities will meanwhile abide by the order.
The board voted unanimously to ratify the decision to join the lawsuit filed Friday. In the same vote, the board gave colleges and universities the OK to begin actions necessary to comply with Biden’s order.
The board on Tuesday cited unknowns in how long the lawsuit could go on, potentially jeopardizing nearly $90 million in federal research contracts and agreements that typically involve subcontractors on research efforts. Federal research grants aren’t affected. Those grants can help students go to school and faculty conduct research.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Georgia requests an injunction blocking Biden’s order while the case plays out. It’s not clear when a ruling on an injunction might be made.
Given that uncertainty, Board President Kurt Liebich said, “we would be wise to begin the process of complying with that” executive order.
It’s not clear how many workers in Idaho would be affected by the order. Students wouldn’t be affected, unless they’re also employees.
The lawsuit also includes the state of Idaho, Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and other entities within those states. The Idaho State Board of Education appears as a plaintiff in its capacity as regents of the University of Idaho, and board of trustees of Boise State University, Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College.
The states in the lawsuit are asking a federal judge to block Biden’s requirement that all employees of federal contractors be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Dec. 8, arguing that the mandate violates federal procurement law and is an overreach of federal power.
Biden’s executive order is “astonishing — not only for its tremendous breadth and unworkably short deadline, but also because so little care has been given to how it will work in the real world,” the lawsuit said.
The sweeping vaccine mandates put forward by Biden in August affect 100 million Americans, requiring that employers with more than 100 workers require workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly for the virus.
Workers at health facilities who receive federal Medicare or Medicaid will have to be fully vaccinated, affecting more than 17 million health care workers, the White House said.
Employees of the executive branch and contractors that do business with the federal government are also required to be vaccinated with no option to test out, though exemptions would be allowed for disability or religious belief. That covers several million more workers.
The requirement for large companies to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing for employees will be enacted through a forthcoming rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that carries penalties of $14,000 per violation.
Idaho lawmakers plan to convene Nov. 15 at the Statehouse to pass laws also aimed at thwarting Biden’s COVID-19 mandates.