Lawmakers inquire about National Guard vaccine mandate

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A group of Republican lawmakers wants to know whether the Kansas National Guard would violate state law if it moves ahead with a mandate requiring7 COVID-19 vaccines for its troops.

The lawmakers, who all sit on the House Veterans and Military Committee, sent a letter Tuesday to Adjutant Gen. David Weishaar asking about mandatory vaccinations for the National Guard.

The legislators – Republican state Reps. Pat Proctor of Leavenworth, Ron Ellis of Meriden and Tim Johnson of Bonner Springs – cited a Sept. 24 warning order that suggests a vaccine mandate is in the works.

The order says that any National Guard soldiers not getting a vaccine will be subject to reprimand.

“The secretary of defense has directed every service member under the Department of Defense to be fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.”

The letter from the legislators seeks to find out whether the vaccine mandate violates a new law passed last session that prevents state agencies from spending money to enforce a vaccine passport.

The letter was authored by Proctor, a 25-year Army veteran, and signed onto by the two other lawmakers.

The letter says that when the guard is not activated for federal service, it is subject to state law and is funded by appropriations allocated by the Legislature.

“The provisions of this statute, as I understand them, bar you from issuing or requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination from any of your servicemembers – unless they are activated by the federal  government…,” the letter says.

“So, again, I ask, under what legal authority are you mandating Covid-19 vaccines for  the servicemembers in the Kansas National Guard?”

A spokeswoman for the adjutant general’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The order sets out that the vaccine mandate would be implemented in three phases, starting with educating any National Guard troops that are not vaccinated.  The education phase would end Dec. 31.

A second phase for vaccinating National Guard troops would start Jan. 1 and continue through March 31.

There would be a third phase that would run from April 1 to June 30 when an order “initiating voluntary separation actions on those who refuse the vaccine who are not pursuing exemptions.”

Repuublican U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall recently took up legislation that bars the Defense Department from dishonorably discharging anyone who refuses to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

“As a physician and veteran who is confident that the vaccine has saved countless lives, I believe vaccinating our servicemembers against COVID-19 is an important effort,” Marshall said in a recent statement

“However, whether or not to receive the vaccine should be a personal choice between  individual and their doctor,”  he said

Marshall joined Republicans Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Tommy Tuberville of Mississippi in introducing the bill last week.

Similar language was included in the defense spending bill over in the House.