Election 2020 Indiana Attorney General

In this Aug. 9, 2017, file photo, former Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita speaks during a news conference outside of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

(The Center Square) – Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita announced he’s filing three lawsuits on behalf of the state challenging the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandates.

One, that was to be filed Friday afternoon in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, challenges the OSHA regulation issued this week that will require businesses with 100 or more employees to have all employees vaccinated or tested weekly by Jan. 4 or face up to $14,000 in fines per violation.

OSHA, Rokita said at a press conference on Thursday, has no authority to issue such a rule.

“It’s egregious and insidious that we’d use something, a body of law that was meant to protect workers at the workplace from dangerous toxicities, from other directly unsafe situations, to use it in this fashion to cover something that is a much bigger part of our lives,” Rokita said.

He said his office is asking the court for a stay, saying it conflicts with Indiana’s “vaccine passport law” that prohibits state and local governments in Indiana from requiring that people submit anything in writing or electronic form related to their COVID-19 vaccination status.

“This mandate, this OSHA mandate, would nullify Indiana state law in that regard and I think that’s also a problem,” Rokita said. "This is a direct attack on states’ rights. This is a direct attack on individual liberties and freedom and it’s a complete overreach of the federal government.”

The first of the three suits was filed by the attorney general’s office Thursday, against the Biden Administration’s order that all federal contractors have their employees vaccinated by Jan. 4, or have them tested weekly.

“Frankly, it’s still unclear as to exactly what federal contractor includes, but it could be not only private businesses here in the state of Indiana but it could be other state agencies, it could be our universities,” Rokita said, noting that the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense have several contracts in the state.

Indiana joined Louisiana and Mississippi in the suit against the mandates on federal contractors, filed Thursday in federal court in Louisiana.

“This mandate suffers from a host of fatal flaws,” the suit says, going on to say it “usurps” state authority over public health, a core area of state sovereignty; violates the Nondelegation Doctrine and Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, and threatens state budgets with widespread implications for social programs. The suit also points to the last of reasoning in the administration’s mandate, and the fact that Congress has not authorized any such action.

“Standing alone, each flaw independently warrants vacating the Contractor Vaccine Mandate; standing together, they require it,” the suit says.

The third suit to be filed will address the Biden Administration’s mandate on the Medicaid and Medicare programs. This rule was expected to be published on Friday.

“This is going to affect thousands, maybe millions of Medicaid workers and change the very way of, down to the root, of how Indiana administers its Medicaid program,” Rokita said. “So you’re talking about drastic and big change here. And then not to mention these employees that are simply going to retire and not come back.”

None of the three suits being filed take issue with private employers in the state independently imposing vaccine mandates on their employees and there is no move by Indiana’s Republican leaders to prohibit employer vaccine mandates. In January, a bill under consideration by the Indiana Senate’s Pensions and Labor Committee that would have prohibited employer vaccine mandates failed to make it out of committee, even though the chairman of the committee, Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, was one of the authors.

On Thursday, after OSHA published its emergency regulation, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that he was directing the Indiana Department of Labor to work with the Attorney General's office on a lawsuit challenging it. 

"This is an overreach of the government’s role in serving and protecting Hoosiers," Holcomb said in a written statement that was distributed to the media. "While I agree that the vaccine is the tool that will best protect against COVID-19, this federal government approach is unprecedented and will bring about harmful, unintended consequences in the supply chain and the workforce.”