Burgum opposes Biden mandate; will look at legal challenges

September 13, 2021

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Gov. Doug Burgum said Friday that Joe Biden’s directive that large companies require COVID-19 vaccinations is overreach, and he said he’s asked North Dakota’s attorney general to look at legal options to challenge it.

Burgum, a Republican, said the mandate “steers our country down a dangerous path away from states’ rights and the freedom of private businesses to make their own decisions on vaccinations.”

Biden immediately pushed back at Republican governors on the issue, calling them “cavalier” with the health of children and communities.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he met by teleconference with fellow GOP attorneys general Friday to look at legal options.

“I’m adamantly pro-vaccination, but I’m also pro-federalism,” Stenehjem said. “This is federal overreach.”

Biden’s directive would mandate that employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or be tested for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.

North Dakota’s Legislature overwhelmingly passed a law this year that was signed by Burgum prohibiting the state from issuing vaccine mandates, unless the vaccine is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration or during a public health emergency or disaster. The FDA has since given full approval to the Pfizer vaccine.

Jim Poolman, a former state lawmaker and state insurance commissioner, now is part owner of three restaurants in Bismarck, West Fargo and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Poolman said the restaurants collectively have more than 100 employees, about half of whom are vaccinated.

“I’m pro-vaccinations. I’m vaccinated, my family is vaccinated and most of the management is vaccinated,” Poolman said. “But I’m also pro letting people decide for themselves.”

Poolman said the restaurant industry has just begun recovering from shutdowns due to the coronavirus.

“The industry is having a hard time attracting and retaining employees anyway, and now this comes down the pike,” he said.