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Cox threatens veto if legislature blocks businesses from mandating COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 12:37 PM, Sep 30, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox threatened a veto of any legislation that blocks businesses from mandating employees get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking to reporters at his monthly news conference on PBS, the governor was responding to a question from FOX 13 about vaccine mandates. The legislature has been facing pressure to block all businesses from issuing COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Dozens packed a recent hearing of the legislature's Health & Human Services Interim Committee to push for legislation and another hearing is scheduled Monday before the legislature's Business & Labor Interim Committee.

"We support businesses in their decisions on whether or not to require vaccines and I continue to do that. I know that position can be maddening to some and that’s fine," the governor said. "But I’m a huge believer in free markets. A mandate not to allow businesses to have mandates is a mandate in and of itself."

Gov. Cox said he even supported the Utah Jazz's decision to require proof of vaccination to attend a home game.

"That’s their right to do so and we applaud the marketplace making those decisions," he said.

But when FOX 13 asked if the legislature passes a bill and it gets to his desk, is it dead on arrival? Gov. Cox answered bluntly: "Yes."

The governor and Republican legislative leaders recently signed on to a letter challenging the Biden administration's plans to require businesses with over 100 employees to either mandate regular COVID-19 testing or vaccines. The distinction for leaders on Utah's Capitol Hill is government mandating it versus the free market.

Gov. Cox also announced on Thursday that the Public Employee Health Plan — one of the state's insurance providers — will start offering incentives for its 23,000 state employees to get vaccinated (Utah will not mandate the vaccine). The idea behind it, the governor said, is it would reduce health care costs if someone contracts the virus and must be hospitalized.