Yesterday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican bracing for a difficult campaign season with strong primary challengers, claimed to sign a bill that would ban private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination – commonly referred to as vaccine passports – from customers. The bill not only fails to live up to Florida’s law in terms of what entities are prohibited from requiring the vaccine passports, but also fails to impose any meaningful penalty to businesses that refuse to comply with the law.
At the beginning of the subsection dealing with the supposed ban of vaccine passports, the law seems to codify Abbott’s previous executive order preventing the Texas government from requiring COVID-19 passports, and then appears to extend the same prohibition to businesses. However, a close reading of the bill reveals that the only penalty for a business requiring vaccine passports is that it will not be eligible for state grants or to contract with the state.
“A business in this state may not require a customer to provide any documentation certifying the customer’s COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery,” the language in the bill begins, only to continue, “A business that fails to comply with this subsection is not eligible to receive a grant or enter into a contract payable with state funds.” Texas pundits assert that very few Texas businesses fall into this category, and thus the overwhelming majority of Texas employers will be permitted to require vaccine passports with little to no negative repercussions.
For all the out of state hot takes: This is performative. The law signed by @GregAbbott_TX says companies with state contracts (very few companies) cannot require customers to prove they've been vaccinated. Abbott is just lying when he says vaccine passports are banned #txlege https://t.co/r89lKKpHwq
— Scott Braddock (@scottbraddock) June 8, 2021
This sharply contrasts to the vaccine passport ban signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, which poses severe financial penalties of $5,000 per infraction against any business, school, or government agency that attempts to require individuals to provide proof of vaccination. Unlike Abbott’s toothless ban, Florida’s legislation already prevented Royal Caribbean International from requiring COVID-19 vaccine passports to cruise ship passengers.
Abbott previously claimed to sign an executive order banning vaccine passports. However, as National File reported, Abbott’s executive order was similarly toothless, and only prevented government entities in Texas from issuing or requiring vaccine passports. This was again in sharp contrast to the order signed by DeSantis, which prevented any private or public entity from requiring COVID-19 passports.