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Attorney General Ken Paxton Issues Opinion in Response to Senator Bettencourt’s  Questioned on HISD’s Vaccine Policy 

Senator Bettencourt questioned if HISD’s leave policy would make any additional COVID-19 Specific paid leave a “vaccine passport” 

Austin, TX – Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) reports upon his request to the Texas Attorney  General, Ken Paxton, to review the legality of HISD’s Covid-19 leave policy and the Opinion received from Attorney General Paxton. The policy that HISD adopted for the 2021-2022 school year offers a  maximum of 10 additional paid sick days for staffers who were fully vaccinated and those who had  medical exemptions should they contract COVID-19, while unvaccinated staff must use their personal  leave should they test positive. 

“The Attorney General Opinion recognizes the obvious that in Texas because of Governor  Abbott’s EO GA-39 and SB 968, ISDs cannot give extra leave for employees using documentation  requiring a “vaccine passport”. It’s up to the TEA to look at enforcement rules and to prevent this  from occurring. This is a simple fairness issue,” stated Senator Paul Bettencourt. 

Bettencourt initiated the request for the AG to review this after SB 968 was passed and Abbott’s  Executive Order GA-39. Paxton’s office opined the belief that the policy constituted a vaccine passport  stating that “A court would likely conclude that, by offering additional paid leave only to those employees  showing proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a medical exemption, the Houston Independent School  District’s COVID-19 paid leave policy violates Executive Order GA-39. Any standard documentation that  certifies an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status constitutes a “vaccine passport” under subsection  161.0085(b) of the Health and Safety Code.” This opinion applies to any TEA enforcement of this issue. 

“Proud to see SB 968 once again protecting Texans from vaccine passports of any kind,” stated  Senator Lois Kolkhorst. 

Additionally, Paxton stated that HISD’s Covid-19 paid-leave policy does not, on its face, violate an  employee’s medical privacy rights, but clarified “HISD is a covered entity under the Texas Medical  Records and Privacy Act and must comply with its provisions. Any information related to the vaccination  status of an employee would be covered as “protected health information” under the TMRPA (as the  statute adopts the federal definition) and treated accordingly”. Subsection 161.0085(b) does not permit a  government entity to issue nor share standard documentation that certifies an individual’s COVID-19  vaccination status for any purpose other than for health care. Sharing information for an employment  matter (or any other non-health care related purpose) would not be permitted under this statute. As  written, subsection 161.0085(c) clearly prohibits a business from requiring submission of such documentation from a customer.

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