The Senate Health & Human Services committee met on October 10 to take up SB 7 (Middleton) relating to prohibiting an employer from adopting or enforcing certain COVID-19 vaccine mandates. SB 7 was voted out at the end of the hearing (6-1).

This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight the various topics taken up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the discussions but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer.


Opening Comments

  • Chair Kolkhorst – Will consider SB 7 today; have been getting emails, but this is the only bill that has been referred to the committee & the committee can only consider referred bills


SB 7 (Middleton | et al.) Relating to prohibiting an employer from adopting or enforcing certain COVID-19 vaccine mandates; authorizing an administrative penalty.

  • Middleton lays out the bill – Prohibits employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates
  • Passed SB 177 during regular session, but it did not pass the House; also passed SB 29 which banned vaccine mandates for governmental entities
  • This is about personal decisions on COVID vaccines
  • There is an urgency to passing this as Gov. Abbott’s executive order has expired & private employers have begun mandating vaccines
  • Prohibits employers from adopting policy requiring COVID vaccine as condition of employment, prohibits taking action for refusal to take vaccine, fine structure for violations & AG can bring actions
  • Little opportunity for frivolous litigation with administrative penalty schedule
  • Already law that a business can’t be held liable for violating a COVID policy
  • Main argument against this was that CMS funding would be lost, but Biden administration rescinded CMS rule
  • Perry – If an employer has adopted the exceptions, medical and religious, does this change their world?
    • Middleton – This is an outright ban, already accepted exceptions would continue & won’t change; this just fixes the gap left by executive order expiring in June
  • Perry – Don’t want to create a conflict or confusion, we’ve put in state code that an employer would use those exceptions; don’t want employers to be caught in what is and isn’t allowed, so this says no vaccine mandate period, and then if they were required you have TWC action
  • Perry – In my district had corporations owned outside of the state, would assume they’re still subject to lawsuits brought by AG, etc.; what happens to those companies that aren’t Texas companies?
    • Middleton – It is on an individual basis, shouldn’t be forced to get a vaccine or have livelihood threatened; this covers situations SB 177 would’ve addressed during the regular session
  • Perry – Even though CMS has been removed there are other contracting provisions that would require vaccines; the actual contractors that contract with others?
    • Middleton – Bill contemplates that and says you can’t require this of contractors either, only remedies are the TWC fine and AG action
  • Perry – Need to have clarity in what an employer can use in statute & if you’re being genuine in medical & religious exemptions; I’m “on” the bill, would like a discussion on giving the middle guy some exemptions some consideration
  • Perry – Have people who would lose contracts today and I think there could be some exemptions; don’t want to see businesses exit
    • Middleton – Only applies to Texans, if a foreign or out-of-state company is contracting then they would be subject to fines, etc.
    • Leaving intent on why an individual doesn’t want the vaccine to them
  • Miles – You said Washington DC’s policy was forced on Texas, you believe that?
    • Middleton – I do, a number of organizations will speculate on this and use that to oppose this bill
  • Miles – So this is an anti-Washington bill?
    • Middleton – Wouldn’t say that, would say this is an individual freedom bill
  • Miles – From reading the bill, there are no exceptions for any industry?
    • Middleton – No, bill is about the individual
  • Miles – Did you consider some industries that may need exceptions?
    • Middleton – A number have reached out
  • Miles – I represent TMC, doesn’t seem that bill trusts medical professionals; why aren’t health care facilities not exempt from the bill?
    • Middleton – Didn’t think it was appropriate to exempt anyone, bill trusts individuals; bill doesn’t ban the vaccine, ensures no adverse action is taken against Texans
  • Miles – Medical facilities were ground zero for COVID cases, trusted medical professionals early in the pandemic & beginning of the pandemic was a disaster; don’t you think we should allow businesses & providers that work with our vulnerable populations to create policy that protects those populations?
    • Middleton – Bill protects individuals from losing their job if they don’t believe the vaccine is right for them
    • Many were excluded from visiting their loved ones during the pandemic, many of the arguments during the pandemic were supposition and assumptions
    • Individuals got to make choices up until June
  • Miles – Don’t believe this policy should apply to everything
    • Middleton – Don’t agree that vaccine prevents transmission & 90% of health care workers have been vaccinated
  • Miles – How are adverse actions determined?
    • Middleton – E.g. if an employee is put on unpaid leave for refusing a vaccine, subject to fines and need to make the employee whole; clear to me what that would be
  • Miles – What if a patient only wants to see a provider who is vaccinated?
    • Middleton – That is you as a patient, not an adverse action
  • Miles – So if a hospital reassigns an unvaccinated provider away from me at the patient’s request?
    • Middleton – Depends on if it is adverse action, if you lose salary, vacation days, etc.
    • Don’t think a patient’s request to see a vaccinated provider would conflict with the bill
  • Miles – Takes 8 antibiotics to keep transplanted kidney alive; do you think I want to see someone who is unvaccinated? Do you understand why?
    • Middleton – Hear you, see the struggles & see you standing for what is the right thing, but I’m standing for what I think is the right thing; different for every person
  • Miles – Would hope you would consider adding a health care exemption to this bill; this is about safety for health care
  • Hall – Job as legislators is to protect individual liberties, this bill should have been passed in 2021; not passing this would be irresponsible based on what we know, we know vaccines don’t stop transmission; hospitals received compensation for COVID treatment and people died, TMA stood by and watched it happen, allowed US citizens to be experimented on
  • Hall – Bill needs to be strengthened, needs to address all vaccines form standpoint of individual right; this did start in Washington & we failed to stop it
    • Middleton – Forgot to point out the PREP Act, if you are injured because of the CVOID vaccine you can’t bring action & this is a huge problem
  • Hall – Texas has the best medical system but also some of the highest COVID death rates; providers were prevented from using off-label drugs like HCQ and ivermectin
  • Hancock – Support the legislation, this is not a partisan issue, immunities pharmaceuticals and expedited process were Trump administration efforts; there is a trade off here, there are hospitals with special areas requiring additional precautions from employees
  • Hancock – As we provide freedom to some we’re taking it away from others in this legislation; while hospitals may be a corporate entity, they have nuances within their responsibilities that they need to address
    • Middleton – Looking forward to working with you on this issue and others; COVID vaccine is unique because of the level of government intervention
    • Have had a couple of years to think about this, legislation is better since 2021 because of this
  • Hall – COVID is unique, but was also a unique event in how government experimented on people to see how they would react when they took control of our society
  • Chair Kolkhorst – How do you see this working in concert with SB 29?
    • Middleton – Very similar language in SB 29, cites CMS rule & CMS order was rescinded early by the Biden administration
  • Chair Kolkhorst – In your bill there are no exemptions, 17 states have passed bills related to COVID mandates & TX would be the first with no exemptions
    • Montana has one very similar to SB 7
  • Chair Kolkhorst – Would TWC recoup its investigative cost from the business or the state? Are we silent on that?
    • Middleton – Silent on this right now, but good point and have heard this conversation
    • TWC process will be effective, in other drafts it was up to individual to file the lawsuit and pay the fees; this impacts employees that aren’t able to hire lawyers
  • Chair Kolkhorst – There needs to be an observance of those who don’t want to take the vaccine even in health care settings; will support this, but do need to be very careful in how to craft this going forward


Panel 1

Cathy Lux, Retired RN – For

  • Where there is risk there must be choice and fully informed consent; safety record of MRNA injection is dismal; inflammatory response was well known early and despite this the FDA approved it for emergency use
  • The vaccine is neither safe nor effective; studies have found large casualties from the vaccine
  • No vaccine should be mandated, least of all the experimental COVID MRNA vaccine; should be relegated to the dustbin of history


Jackie Schlegel, Texans for Medical Freedom – For

  • Dedicated to all Texan’s right to informed consent and vaccine choice; fully support COVID vaccine mandate ban
  • Really a nonpartisan issue, here to protect every Texan’s right to have a decision in their own health care


Michelle Evans, Texans for Vaccine Choice – For

  • Laws so far have been enacted in a piecemeal fashion; current call is limited to COVID vaccines & employers, but resolute in belief that medical liberty should be enjoyed by all
  • Unconscionable to require patient to submit to vaccine that is risky to be eligible for lifesaving procedures, received two calls about this last week


Jimmy Widmer, Texas Medical Association, Texas Pediatric Society – Against

  • Opposed to SB 7 as written, but want to work with committee to address reasonable exceptions
  • Important for patients to receive care in a health environment that minimizes disease risk
  • Asking that physician offices and health care facilities be allowed freedom to set policies for contractors and employees, provided that there are exceptions for conscience and when medically contraindicated


Questions for Panel 1

  • Chair Kolkhorst – you mentioned conscience, if someone chooses not to take the flu vaccine what is the procedure?
    • Widmer – Every facility or doctors office might handle this differently, for flu have procedures like masking or wearing gloves
    • In other facilities might transfer those individuals to care for patients who aren’t high-risk
  • Chair Kolkhorst – How would you define conscience?
    • Widmer – Up to individual to define that
  • Chair Kolkhorst – Experienced with COVID vaccine that very little was observed, there was no conscience, etc.; how do you balance this? Do we lose providers to industry?
    • Widmer – Not here to be pro-mandate today, here to talk about patient safety and ensure patients have level of assurance that physician or health care entity is taking steps to protect patients’ interests and wellbeing
  • Chair Kolkhorst – Did have exemptions and opt-outs in SB 1024; if you do refuse the flu vaccine, how long do you have to wear PPE? All year long or just during season?
    • Widmer – Don’t know specifically, but would take the educated position that it is during flu season
  • Hall – Can take off PPE but can’t take off vaccines
    • Widmer – If an individual under the proposed language felt this wasn’t in their best interest, exception is available; not an either or
    • Talking about patient safety and ensuring facilities have the ability to do what they feel is in the best interest of their patient population
  • Hall – Does this include requiring vaccines?
    • Widmer – Not here to talk about a mandate, talking about a clinic being able to put forward this policy
  • Hall – So you’re saying vaccines with no exemptions?
    • Widmer – Mentioned exceptions for conscience or when medically contra-indication
  • Hall – Who gets to decide? Does the employer or employee make the decision; businesses have had these policies and turned exemptions down; without standard these are worthless
    • Widmer – Within the proposal put forward, the employees would not be subject to punishment for submitting exemptions
    • Here to advocate for safety of patients
  • Hall – Does the employee get fired or are they allowed to continue working?
    • Widmer – Not sure, the employee is not punished; can’t speak for all health care facilities or physicians in TX, up to them to take this up on a case by case basis
  • Hall – You want to limit this to medical facilities but you don’t care about the employees; ;this is the one area so dangerous for people that the federal government provides immunity for the provider
  • Hall – Asks other public witnesses if there should be any exceptions?
    • Schlegel – Absolutely not
  • Hall – Shouldn’t employers be responsible for adverse action
    • Widmer – If it were medical contraindicated there would be an exception
  • Hall – If you require one of your employees to take the vaccine and they had a reaction, are you responsible for the reaction?
    • Widmer – Would have the same policy as applies for the flu vaccine now
  • Hall – If you require as an employer, not as a doctor, should you not be responsible for an adverse reaction?
    • Widmer – Would be similar to adverse reactions for flu
    • Schlegel – Employees are required to sign two consent forms, one of which is a consent from disclaiming ability to pursue employer for reactions
  • Miles – Agrees with Hall that we’re going in a dangerous direction; have a shortage of kidneys available to transplant, and policies like this could get in the way of appropriate care; putting up another hurdle at a time when should be making transplants more accessible
  • Miles – Highlights supporter list on the bill, no doubt that this bill is political; should be making it easier for people to get health care, but going to make this worse
    • Evans – Had an infant who was refused transplant due to lack of vaccines
  • Hall – Should be moving forward with care and concern for health care & this is what SB 7 is about; vaccine is untested
  • Chair Kolkhorst – There is a lot of discussion on the COVID vaccine’s effectiveness, there is not a lot of medical trust right now; will be filing legislation next session to go back to science and base facts
  • Perry – Asks TMA; COVID was novel, response at the time was the best it could be & we did not change our response quick enough; SB 7 results from idea that maybe we didn’t learn; time to start moving past COVID; cost of losing your job is worse than dying, death by 1,000 cuts
  • Perry – Didn’t take the vaccine, discussed this with doctor; do you know if the percentages of hospitalization with comorbidities are similar now to other regular viruses? If you don’t know this, want this info
    • Widmer – Example of discussing with your PCP & not taking vaccine are important to what we’re proposing
    • Still discovering long-term effects of COVID, e.g. persistent symptoms with post-acute COVID symptoms or “long COVID” that can impact ability to work
    • Part of why we’re in a different realm with COVID compared to others
  • Perry – If we treat everyone as if they will end up with long-term symptoms; seems to be no concerns from the people that stand to benefit financially, system is rigged against honesty
  • Perry – Is TMA okay with a directive to accept exemptions with reasonable due diligence? Not a “may accept?”
    • Widmer – Can get back to you with this answer
  • Chair Kolkhorst – Sen. Perry is correct, there is a distrust right now & we will keep seeing these bills; saw during the pandemic that some doctors lost their curiosity and certain drugs that could save lives were forbidden and doctors could be turned into the TMB
  • Chair Kolkhorst – Will keep seeing this while we don’t have the medical establishment discussing incidents of myocarditis in youth
  • Hancock – Just want to be careful we don’t do this with a meat cleaver, but with a scalpel; had to choose between getting vaccinated for a transplant or going on dialysis; in the transplant arena, you are given medical freedom & you can choose how far down the list you want to be
  • Hancock – Choices are due to having more people waiting for the organs than organs are available; transplants aren’t going to go to waste; but when the time comes the COIVD shot is worse for you than better for you, don’t want to be forced to take it
  • Hughes – Many have heard of long COVID, post acute, etc., what therapies, treatments, etc. is available? What is the prognosis?
    • Widmer – Depends on what the symptoms are, range from respiratory symptoms, muscle pain, fatigue, neurocognitive symptoms, etc.; many associations are working on this
  • Hughes – Are you seeing positive results?
    • Widmer – Yes
  • Hughes – of the patients you’ve seen, have you tracked whether they’re vaccinated or not?
    • Widmer – Great question, looking at this right now and hoping to have an answer soon; other clinics and post-acute care do have data showing decrease in symptoms & severity in those that are vaccinated
  • Sparks – Have you looked at how the COVID patients were treated for COVID, respiratory issues, etc.?
    • Have looked at treatment, what care was sought, ventilator use, therapies, etc.
  • Sparks – Would be very interested in seeing data from all of that; concerned about the lack of proactivity from the medical community in treating COVID
  • Chair Kolkhorst – I think this is an area where the medical profession failed us; H1N1 was novel as well and significant effort was spent to treat, but with COVID it was perplexing that the medical world shut down
  • Perry – Were the patients you’ve treated and provided as examples vaccinated?
    • Widmer – Don’t believe they were
  • Hall – Need to understand more of what got us into this mess, a lot of COVID was misdiagnosed and people were treated with COVID who actually had influenza A or B; had appearance of COVID that was worse than it was because we were determined to have a COVID pandemic and facilities were paid for COVID patients
  • Chair Kolkhorst – Do think we need to continue to push on this, heart of this bill is a distrust for science


Panel 2

Sheila Hemphill, Texas Right to Know – For

  • COVID is a bioweapon as confirmed by FOIA requests
  • Highlights Omega Brief and information regarding facemasks, JAMA stated facemasks should not be worn by healthy individuals because no evidence suggests facemasks are effective
  • Chair Kolkhorst – How do you feel about SB 7?
    • Hemphill – Good first step, but agree with Sen. Hall that it should’ve been done sooner and more should be done
    • Shouldn’t be forced to accept medical procedures, including microchips
    • Product safety wasn’t required, only a statement to HHS that the vaccine may be effective, this decision is not subject to review or override
    • PREP Act relied on no other viable alternative, could not have used the vaccine if they allowed HCQ and ivermectin
    • The virus was patented by a lab run by Dr. Fauci in 2002
    • Learned of efficacy of ozone therapy but was told to not discuss it, so released a press release reporting the efficacy of ozone
    • COVID vaccine does not prevent infection


Cesar Lopez, Texas Hospital Association – Against

  • Against SB 7 as currently drafted
  • Chapter 224 Health & Safety Code already regulates hospitals on vaccinations, not specific to any vaccination and requires hospitals to have policies in place
  • Requires written policy, requires allowing exemptions for religion or conscience, provides for patient safety; violators subject to civil and admin penalties


Leslie Thomas, Republican Party of Texas – For

  • Testifies about son’s experience with adverse reactions due to CVOID vaccination


Dawn Richardson, National Vaccine Information Center – For

  • Hospitals want to be exempted out because they want the option to mandate vaccines, asking Lege to reject this; this is about control, no valid justification for allowing exemptions to a mandate ban


Kevin Warren, Texas Health Care Association – Against

  • Concerned if the federal government does make a decision to reimplement a mandate it would impact the 80%-85% of revenue going to LTC; puts providers in a position


Questions for Panel 2

  • Chair Kolkhorst – you’re saying you’re scared they will repeal their repeal?
    • Warren – Saw a report recently that staffing ratios could be required for LTC
  • Chair Kolkhorst – Many nursing facilities are owned by hospitals, SB 29 already moved the ball in this direction, says no hospital district can force masks or vaccines; limitation of SB 7 is that it is only COVID mandate; certainly public hospitals were already part of SB 29
  • Chair Kolkhorst – Any exemption would need to include a “shall;” would you be against a “shall?”
    • Lopez – Under Chap. 224 if someone is not vaccinated, wouldn’t retaliate, but might require PPE or prohibit personal from going to high-risk areas, would be okay with a “shall”
  • Hall – Asks Richardson on her opinion on Chapter 224
    • Richardson – People shouldn’t have to ask for an exemption; mandates are on trained health care professionals and they aren’t able to stand up for their informed consent
  • Hall – THA would be okay with a shall?
    • Lopez – Based on what I said earlier; believe that informed consent is appropriate whenever but want to make sure we protect patients who come into our facilities and expect or insist on a certain level of treatment
    • There is an assumption that religious or conscience exceptions are valid
  • Hall – If I make a religious exemption request, you aren’t going to decide, you have to accept?
    • Lopez – Correct, there is an assumption it is valid
  • Hall – If there are loopholes it doesn’t work
    • Lopez – Supreme Court said religious exemptions include moral and ethical reasons, as long as it meets that standard we have to assume it is valid
  • Chair Kolkhorst – EEOC actually sued a hospital that refused to grant religious exemption for a flue vaccine, so this is going on
    • Richardson – True; for SB 1669 had multiple hours of testimony from employees that they would be terminated or had been terminated
  • Hall – Asks Hemphill, you’re concerned about masks?
    • Hemphill – Concerned about deception, no evidence of efficacy
    • No requirement for informed consent for vaccinations
  • Hall – There have been studies discussing long-term impact of masks and possible carcinogenic chemicals, need to think about protecting rights on masks


Panel 3

Sean Seagle, Self – For

  • Highlights injuries caused by COVID shots, incidence of harm from COVID vaccine exceeds incidence from other vaccines by 3,000%
  • No one should be at risk of losing your job due to not taking a vaccine


Gregory Porter, Texas Liberty Council – For

  • Infectious disease affects people differently, impossible to assess risk on entire population, vaccines do not stop the spread of viruses; idea that businesses will force people to take medicine to protect others is a false premise
  • Need to regulate business because we’re operating in an environment without fair competition; the same entities owning the providers own the pharmaceutical manufacturers
  • Chair Kolkhorst – We do allow companies to mandate certain things like steel-toed boots, hard hats, etc., but these are things you can remove
    • Porter – Agrees, talking about genetic modification


SB 7 voted out to full Senate (6-1)