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Utah joins lawsuit over White House’s order that federal contractors be vaccinated against COVID-19

Seven states sign on to the suit, which matches actions by a dozen other Republican-led states.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Stickers in English and Spanish are available for people getting vaccinated against COVID-19 at the former Provo High School at 1125 N. University Ave. on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.

Utah and six other states have filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration in an effort to block a mandate that federal contractors be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The lawsuit, which was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, is being brought by the states of Utah, Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina and West Virginia, as well as officials and cabinet departments from some of those states.

A group of Utah’s elected leaders, in a joint statement, accused Biden of “making a habit out of reaching beyond the limits of his authority. In doing so, he is unnecessarily exacerbating stress on the supply chain, damaging the economy, forcing workers to leave jobs and hurting American families.”

The statement — signed by Gov. Spencer Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, Attorney General Sean Reyes, Senate President Stuart Adams, House Speaker Brad Wilson, Auditor John Dougall and Treasurer Marlo M. Oaks, all Republicans — said: “We must take a stand for hardworking Utahns who are being forced to either get the vaccine or lose their jobs.”

In a separate statement, Reyes said the seven states “are prepared to fight all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. And if he makes good on his threat to impose a mandate on small businesses through OSHA, we will sue him again.”

Also among the plaintiffs in this suit are Govs. Brian Kemp of Georgia, Kay Ivey of Alabama, Brad Little of Idaho and Henry McMaster of South Carolina — all Republicans — as well as the board of regents of Georgia’s university system, Georgia’s agriculture commissioner, the Idaho State Board of Education, and three Alabama cabinet departments.

Six of the seven states are led by Republican governors; the exception is Kansas, whose governor, Laura Kelly, is a Democrat.

The lawsuit mirrors two other lawsuits filed Friday by Republican-led states, CNN reported. One was filed by the state of Texas; the other was filed by the attorney generals of Missouri and Nebraska, and included Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming as plaintiffs. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis filed a new lawsuit in Tampa against Biden’s order, which is set to take effect Dec. 8.

Of the 19 states suing the Biden administration, two — Georgia and New Hampshire — went for Biden in the 2020 presidential election. The other 17 all went to Donald Trump.

Biden said in September, when he announced the mandate for federal workers and contractors, that there would be legal challenges. His response at the time: “Have at it.”

Legal experts told The Associated Press in September that the White House appears to be on firm legal ground to make the orders — both to federal workers and contractors and, through OSHA, private businesses — in the name of protecting employee safety.

“My bet is that with respect to that statutory authority, they’re on pretty strong footing given the evidence strongly suggesting … the degree of risk that [unvaccinated individuals] pose, not only to themselves but also unto others,” University of Connecticut law professor Sachin Pandya told the AP.