Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced a new vaccine requirement for healthcare workers on August 12, and it didn’t take long for some members of the 130th Maine Legislature to voice their displeasure with the decision.
The entire House Republican Caucus signed a letter that was sent to the governor on Monday, August 16, outlining their opposition to the mandate.
“We are deeply troubled by your decision to require that all Maine healthcare workers be vaccinated. We hereby ask that you reconsider and rescind your mandate before serious harm is inflicted upon Maine’s healthcare system, our senior citizens, and public safety,” the letter begins.
The caucus takes issue with the administration’s refusal to answer questions about the mandate before it was issued and a lack of communication with the legislature before taking unilateral emergency actions. Similar concerns were raised by the group throughout 2020.
While the civil state of emergency ended on June 30, 2021, Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency on July 1, 2021, which will remain in effect until the federal Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services terminates it.
“Healthcare professionals are in the best position to make their own decisions regarding their health. We rely on them; we should let them have control of their own bodies. Your policy also grossly interferes with the contractual rights of private employers and their employees. This decision should be left to the private employers and not mandated by the government.
“This mandate represents serious government overreach and will further exacerbate the current shortage of health and direct care workers,” the letter continues.
The letter came after Senate Republicans raised similar concerns following the governor’s announcement on August 12.
“Once again, Governor Mills has taken unilateral action restricting the liberties of Maine citizens without so much as notifying the Legislature of her intent. The response and outrage that we are hearing from our constituents is clear and impassioned. We cannot sit idly by while state government again imposes its will on private citizens, businesses and organizations,” Sen. Matt Pouliot (R-Augusta) said in a press release.
His caucus also signaled it would be drafting and submitting emergency legislation to undo the mandate. Lawmakers are expected to return to Augusta later this year to deal with redistricting, which was delayed last year as a result of the pandemic, though the bill isn’t likely to be heard until the second session where it would need to be approved by the Legislative Council to be considered by the full legislature.
Since the council is a 10-member body comprised of six Democrats and four Republicans, the Republicans’ legislation to repeal the mandate is unlikely to receive enough support to be admitted into the second session.