Reason Roundup

Joe Biden Presses Ahead With Vaccine Mandates, Inviting Legal Challenges

Plus: The Twin Cities will both vote on rent control ballot initiatives, New Jersey and Virginia voters will pick a new governor, and more...

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The Biden administration is pressing ahead with requiring workers to get their COVID jab or potentially lose their job, a move that will certainly invite legal challenges. Later this week, the U.S. Department of Labor will publish its rule mandating that private sector businesses with 100 or more employees have all their workers either get vaccinated or get periodic testing for COVID-19, reports the Wall Street Journal. 

The Department of Labor said that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had completed its review of the vaccine mandate on Monday, and the full text would be available in "the coming days."

Also on Monday, the Biden administration released the details of a separate mandate requiring government contractors to get the vaccine. The new guidance tells contractors to provide "counseling and education" to employees who refuse the vaccine "followed by additional disciplinary measures", reports Roll Call. Firing non-vaccinated employees should be a last resort, according to the new government guidance. It also gives contractors the ability to grant their employees medical and religious exemptions.

Both vaccine mandates have proven controversial. Some business associations have asked that the rules be delayed through the end of the holidays so as not to add to existing staffing shortages.

"Now placing vaccination mandates on employers, which in turn force employees to be vaccinated, will create a workforce crisis for our industry and the communities, families and businesses we serve," said Chris Spear, president of the American Trucking Association in a letter to OMB, reports CNBC.

Employers that don't comply with the new rule will face fines of up to $13,600 per violation, per the Journal.

On September, 24 Republican state attorneys general sent the Biden administration a letter calling its vaccine mandate for private employees a "disastrous and counterproductive" policy based on "flimsy legal arguments." Should the White House not change course,  they said they would "seek every legal option available to…uphold the rule of law."

A few trade associations seem interested in taking up the case too.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses, which represents small businesses, said in a September letter that the administration was forcing its members to "serve as the government's instruments of coercion against its own employees." Those are fighting words.

George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin, writing at The Volokh Conspiracy (which is hosted at Reason), has argued that the federal government is on its firmest legal ground when mandating vaccines for its own employees. A mandate that the employees of private companies get the shot as well, and the emergency rule-making process that the Biden administration is using to implement that mandate, "are legally dubious and would set a dangerous precedent, if upheld," writes Somin.

Expect lawsuits to fly once the full text of the vaccine mandate is released.


FREE MARKETS

Voters in Minnesota's Twin Cities will vote on rent control ballot initiatives in local elections today. Both are bad, but one is far worse than the other. Minneapolis's City Question 3 is the less offensive of the two. It would merely allow the city council to either pass a rent control measure of its own or submit one to voters in the form of a referendum.

A majority yes vote on Question 3 wouldn't require the city to adopt a rent control measure. But it obviously would create a huge amount of political pressure to act on the will of voters. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who is up for reelection today as well, has said he'll vote yes on the measure, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. His top opponents in the mayoral election have likewise endorsed Question 3.

In contrast to Minneapolis' non-binding referendum, the ballot measure going before voters in neighboring St. Paul would, if approved, impose a binding 3 percent cap on rent increases. That's a much lower ceiling that recently passed rent control laws in Oregon and California, which cap rent increases at 7 percent and 5 percent respectively.

Those laws also allow those rent increases on top of inflation. St. Paul's does not, meaning that if inflation were to exceed 3 percent, landlords would effectively be required to lower real rents.

Oregon and California's rent control laws also exempt buildings that are less than 15 years old from their price caps in an effort to limit the disincentive these laws create to build new housing. St. Paul's ballot initiative has no such exception for new housing.

For that reason, even proponents of more limited forms of rent control have criticized the St. Paul measure as extreme and likely to reduce new housing construction.


ELECTION 2021

It's election day! Here are a few races and referenda to keep your eye on as voters go to the polls.

  • Voters in Virginia will pick a new governor today in a closely watched, increasingly tight race. Up until a few months ago, it looked like the election was former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's to lose. The state has been trending blue in recent years and hasn't elected a Republican governor since 2009. McAuliffe's series of gaffes, including saying that parents shouldn't tell teachers what to teach, have helped put Republican Glenn Youngkin ahead in some recent polls.
  • Less exciting is the gubernatorial race in New Jersey, where incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is running as much as 11 points ahead of his Republican opponent, former state legislator Jack Ciattarelli. Under Murphy, New Jersey had one of the highest COVID death rates and some of the country's strictest lockdown policies. If he wins, Murphy will be the first Democratic governor reelected in New Jersey since Brenden Byrne in 1977, reports NPR.
  • Bloomberg's CityLab reports that $27 billion in bond initiatives are on Tuesday's ballots. That's about half the amount of borrowing voters were asked to approve last year, with the lower figure explained in part by a surge in federal pandemic aid to states and localities, despite many of them running massive surpluses.
  • FiveThirtyEight notes that there are a number of special congressional elections as well, including two in Ohio's (solidly blue) 11th and (solidly red)15th districts. A Democratic primary will also be held in Florida's 20th District to fill the vacant seat of the late Alcee Hastings. Given the district's deep blue makeup, this will likely determine the winner of the general election to be held in January.
  • In addition to rent control, Minneapolis voters will decide whether to abolish their police department and replace it with a department of public safety. The more things change…

QUICK LINKS

  • The Biden administration is expected to announce new rules limiting methane emissions.
  • Political dirty trickster and Donald Trump supporter Roger Stone has said he might try to run for Florida governor on the Libertarian Party ticket if current Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn't order an audit of the 2020 election.
  • After activists defeated plans for a market-rate housing complex in San Francisco's Mission district, the city plans to step in and build affordable housing on the site. The San Francisco Business Times says that the permitting process for that affordable housing will start in 2025. In unrelated news, a new report finds that low- and middle-income workers can't afford to live in San Francisco.
  • Yahoo is the latest tech company to pull out of China.
  • Squid Game-inspired cryptocurrency "collapses in apparent scam" reports the BBC.