The Biden administration previously announced it would require employees of certain contractors and large employers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. On Friday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Attorney General Treg Taylor announced the state is joining a lawsuit over the announced mandate. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file)

Alaska joins lawsuit over federal vaccine mandate

Lawsuit challenges mandate for federal contractors

The state of Alaska on Friday announced it joined nine other states in suing the Biden administration for mandating COVID-19 vaccines for federal contractors, several of which operate in the state.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Attorney General Treg Taylor said in a news release the mandates were unconstitutional and prohibited by Alaska’s laws. Alaska joins Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming in the lawsuit.

The filing maintains that the contractor rule is ambiguous and inconsistent with other regulations and existing laws, the governor’s office said in a statement, and argues President Joe Biden overstepped his legal authority when he issued the order.

In the statement, Dunleavy called the mandates, “unamerican.”

The governor’s office declined to answer further questions on the decision.

In a Sept. 9, announcement, President Joe Biden said that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans, according to the Associated Press. The roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated, AP reported.

The Biden administration is also requiring vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out, which covers several million more workers, AP reported.

According to an April 2, report from U.S. Congressional Research Services, state and local vaccine mandates were both established as Constitutional in cases involving smallpox vaccines, but the federal government’s authority is subject to debate.

“Except in certain limited circumstances, including in the immigration and military contexts, no existing federal law expressly imposes vaccination requirements on the general population,” the CRS report says. “Certain existing authorities, however, could potentially form the basis of executive action in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

[Dunleavy, Republicans, decry lack of special session action]

According to the report, Supreme Court precedent has supported state and local vaccine mandates —even ones that do not provide for religious or other exemptions — which the Biden administration’s mandate does in some cases. Mandates have generally survived legal challenge, the report says, because mandates generally do not require involuntary vaccination, but instead impose consequences on individuals who refuse to get vaccinated.

The report cites a 1922 Supreme Court Case, Zucht v. King, where parents of an unvaccinated child excluded from school because of her vaccine status violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

In Zucht v. King, “the Supreme Court rejected the constitutional challenges, concluding that ‘it is within the police power of a State to provide for compulsory vaccination’ and that the ordinance did not bestow ‘arbitrary power, but only that broad discretion required for the protection of the public health.’”

Earlier this month University of Alaska Interim President Pat Pitney announced the university system would be mandating vaccines for employees in the future, but the policy was not yet implemented. Pitney said one of the reasons the announcement was being made was due to the university’s status as a federal contractor.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 26

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Alexei Painter, director of Alaska’s Legislative Finance Division, presents an update of the state’s budget situation for the coming year to the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Analysis: Balanced state budget next year can include a $1,535 PFD and $680 BSA increase

However, a “statutory” $3,688 PFD would result in a deficit of more than $1.2 billion, report says.

The Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development at its meeting Wednesday in Juneau. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska’s education board sends a $500M wish list for construction and maintenance to lawmakers

The state’s Board of Education and Early Development approved a priority list… Continue reading

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Ryan Anderson answers questions from state senators during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
State officials working to meet Friday deadline for revised transportation plan

The federal government rejected the plan on Feb. 9, citing numerous deficiencies

(Getty Images)
Alaska Republicans head to the polls Tuesday with Trump, Haley and Ramaswamy on the ballot

On Super Tuesday, March 5, Alaska Republicans will join their counterparts in… Continue reading

Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake, speaks March 20, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Proposal to define a fetus as a person in Alaska’s criminal code faces pushback

Opponents testified that the bill would threaten Alaskans’ abortion rights

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks Monday, May 8, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House approves bigger merit scholarship for in-state high school students

The Alaska House of Representatives voted on Monday without opposition to raise… Continue reading

Most Read