Idaho education official applauds vaccine mandate injunction

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A top Idaho education official said a preliminary injunction blocking President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors will give colleges and universities time to plan a path forward without forcing employees to either be vaccinated or possibly lose their job.

Idaho State Board of Education President Kurt Liebich in a statement Tuesday said the injunction is what the board was hoping for when it joined Republican Gov. Brad Little last month in signing onto a lawsuit filed in Georgia challenging the mandate.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker, in Augusta, Georgia, on Tuesday issued a stay to bar enforcement of the mandate nationwide. Baker found that the states are likely to succeed in their claim that Biden exceeded authorization from Congress when he issued the requirement in September.

“Since the mandate was issued, our institutions have been struggling to develop plans to comply, and the preliminary injunction gives us breathing room to chart a proper path forward without forcing employees to choose between getting vaccinated or potentially losing their job,” Liebich said.

The board voted last month unanimously to ratify the decision to join the lawsuit. In the same vote, the board gave colleges and universities the OK to begin actions necessary to comply with Biden’s order.

The board in voting to comply 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.

“Our colleges and universities continue to offer voluntary vaccinations on each of their campuses and I urge students and employees to get vaccinated,” Liebich said.

The order from the federal court in Georgia came in response to a lawsuit from several contractors and seven states — Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. It applies across the U.S. because one of those challenging the order is the trade group Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., whose members do business nationwide.

The Idaho State Board of Education signed on 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.

Biden issued an executive order Sept. 9 requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to comply with workplace safety guidelines developed by a federal task force. That task force subsequently issued guidelines that new, renewed or extended contracts include a clause requiring employees to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 18. That meant those receiving a two-dose vaccine must get their second shot by Jan. 4. Limited exceptions were allowed for medical or religious reasons.

“Yet another one of President Biden’s vaccine mandates have been temporarily shut down because the states – including Idaho – took a stand against his unprecedented government overreach into Americans’ lives and businesses,” Little said in a statement on Tuesday.

All three of Biden’s broad vaccine mandates affecting the private sector have now been put on hold by courts. Judges already issued a stay regarding one that applies to businesses with 100 or more employees and another for health care workers across the U.S.