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North Texas Businesses Reviewing Competing Federal And State COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

DALLAS - FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - At Southwest Office Systems in Fort Worth, there is no company requirement that their 42 employees get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Vince Puente who heads the firm, along with his brother Buddy, says, "I think that's their choice." Because of that, Puente's company isn't impacted by Governor Abbott's executive order banning vaccine mandates for employees and consumers in any entity. This includes private firms and organizations.

The Governor previously banned state and local government entities from requiring vaccine mandates.

Because of its size, Puente's firm also isn't affected by a pending rule by President Biden's administration that seeks to require about 80 million workers in private companies get vaccinated.

Even so, Puente says he doesn't like government mandates as a rule. "I can't just pick the ones that work for me and the ones that work against me. I've got to stick with my principles and say how does that affect my principles."

Under the President's executive order in September, federal employees, federal contractors, and employees at hospitals and health care facilities receiving funds from Medicare and Medicaid must be vaccinated.

Based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, the President proposed that companies with 100 employees or more either be vaccinated or tested each week for the virus.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council said Tuesday that North Texas hospitals, which face both orders, are now reviewing them, but haven't changed their vaccine requirements.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines said it is reviewing Governor Abbott's executive order as well. But in a statement, the airline said, "According to the President's Executive Order, federal action supersedes any state mandate or law, and we would be expected to comply with the President's Order to remain complaint as a federal contractor."

CBS 11 News reached out to American Airlines seeking comment, but didn't hear back.

Southern Methodist University Constitutional Law Professor Dale Carpenter said companies that are facing the competing mandates should know which to follow. "If there is that conflict, then the President's order would prevail, if the President's order is valid."

Professor Carpenter said the federal government may face legal challenges, but that it is on solid legal ground requiring vaccines for its workers and contractors. Regarding private companies with 100 employees or more, Carpenter said Congress has given OSHA broad powers.

"This, the President would argue that vaccine mandates or testing requirements are part of making employees safe."

Governor Abbott wants state lawmakers to turn his executive order into a law. He added his executive order to the agenda during this third special session, which ends next week.

Bills have been filed in the State House and Senate. A hearing is scheduled on the House Bill 155 Wednesday afternoon in the State Affairs Committee, and the Senate's State Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the Senate Bill 51 Thursday afternoon.

As for Vince Puente, he says forcing his employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine would harm his business. "I've got senior managers that would quit the next day. We have team members who would quit the next day and I've got others who'd be happy they got the vaccinations. It would have a major impact. It would change our business."

Follow Jack on Twitter & Facebook: @cbs11jack

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