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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Conservatives in both chambers of the General Assembly are upping the pressure on Gov. Mike Parson to call a special legislative session to stymie the Biden administration’s proposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled plans for large employers to require workers be either vaccinated against coronavirus or submit weekly negative test results — expected to cover about 80 million people. In addition, all federal employees and contractors doing business with the federal government will need to be vaccinated — forgoing the weekly testing option.

The announcement received immediate pushback by Republican governors and legislators around the country — and Missouri is no exception.

Lawmakers are back in Jefferson City next week for veto session, and several GOP members are pushing Parson to call them into a special session to circumvent Biden’s vaccine plan.

Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden has said the legislature “should take action.”

And in the lower chamber, Reps. Nick Schroer and Tony Lovasco have teamed up on a two-fold plan for a special session. Lovasco has sent an official request to Parson for a special session while Schroer is leading a petition effort. The petition would need signatures from three-fourths of the members of each chamber.

The petition calls for the legislature to consider legislation related to “federal, state, or local government attempts to impose COVID-19 related vaccination mandates, testing mandates, mask mandates, vaccine passports, lockdowns, shutdowns, or any other similar encroachments on state sovereignty, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, schools, churches, religious organizations, working families, or individual liberty.”

Similarly, Rep. Ben Baker of Newton County sent a letter to Parson Friday saying his constituents are “extremely concerned about the Biden administration’s overreach upon their businesses and personal lives.” Like others, he suggested a special session to run concurrently with veto session.

“Every day it seems we are losing our freedoms and liberty as individuals at a rapid rate and we must take action to assert our states’ rights and push back against this radical agenda,” Baker said. “Missouri needs to lead this fight, after all we are the ‘Show-Me’ state!”

Several Conservative Caucus members requested Parson call a special session early last month — way ahead of Biden’s announcement — to prevent businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations. The cohort of six conservatives are planning a renewed letter to the governor, they said.

Parson on Thursday said the Biden administration’s announcement was “unwelcome” in Missouri and could be “potentially dangerous” for families.

“My administration will always fight back against federal power grabs and government overreach that threatens to limit our freedoms,” Parson said.

A spokesperson for Parson did not immediately respond to an inquiry into just how many special session requests the office has received thus far. However, as of Thursday evening, a “confirmed decision” had not yet been made.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri who has been adamantly pushing back against the Biden administration, said the latest mandate “will not stand in Missouri.”

The governor signed legislation earlier this year curtailing local governments’ ability to enact sweeping health orders — a response to sweeping shutdowns and mask mandates enacted throughout the pandemic in certain cities and counties.

Missouri has also gone toe-to-toe with the federal government with a controversial gun law that declares federal laws that could restrict gun ownership as “invalid” in the state of Missouri.

In Missouri, 60 people have died in the past seven days from COVID-19 with more than 10,150 positive cases identified during the last week. At least 54 percent of Missourians who meet the age requirement for the vaccine are fully inoculated. Nearly 78 percent of Missourians who are over the age of 65 are fully vaccinated, according to data from the state.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.

Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.

She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.

Contact Kaitlyn at kaitlyn@themissouritimes.com.

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