10/25/2021 / By Mary Villareal
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called for a special legislative session on Thursday, October 21, to put a ban on mask and vaccine mandates. The move is in response to the series of mandates imposed by President Joe Biden’s administration.
The governor has had enough of the federal government running interference into state business. “We’re here to announce that we need to take action to protect Florida jobs,” DeSantis said during a news conference at the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.
The legislative proposals set by DeSantis include the provision of reemployment assistance for people who were fired due to their failure to comply with an employer’s vaccine mandate. A separate proposal seeks to give Floridians compensation if they develop an adverse reaction to the vaccine.
Another proposal seeks that employers who fire their workers solely based on the vaccine mandate would be prohibited from enforcing non-compete agreements against the employees. A provision would require employers to provide religious and health exemptions, and companies that fail to notify their employees about such exemptions would be held liable to lawsuits.
The press conference is the closest that DeSantis’ administration has come up to repudiate vaccine mandates. “The idea that vaccine mandates are needed to create safe workplaces is a complete lie, and it’s continued to be repeated and you should know that it’s not at all backed up by science. The science says the complete opposite, and that’s a fact,” Florida’s Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. Joseph Ladapo said.
DeSantis said: “We have a federal government trying to use the heavy hand of government to force these injections on a lot of folks who believe that decision should be theirs, their freedom of medical choice. Your right to earn a living should not be contingent on getting shots.”
He added that it is the people’s responsibility to take a stand and fight against the unconstitutional mandates from the federal government.
Biden ordered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last month to create a rule requiring all private employers with over 100 employees to mandate vaccines or require weekly COVID-19 tests. According to officials, this rule could potentially affect nearly 80 million workers and businesses could face fines up to $14,000 per violation. (Related: Dallas-based Southwest Airlines to ignore state of Texas ban on vaccine mandates, setting up major legal fight.)
The rule is not yet in effect, but a large number of private companies have already mandated vaccines for their employees in anticipation of the rule.
Charles Heekin, an attorney from Charlotte County, said that the Florida Legislature could address the vaccine mandate by building its own right-to-work protection in the state’s Constitution.
Currently, Florida is an at-will employment state, where employers can fire, demote, hire, promote or discipline their employees for almost any or no reason at all. The strongest way out from the the vaccine mandates is through legislative action.
DeSantis signed an executive order in April that bans vaccine passports in the state. In May, he signed a bill that codified the ban. The law now prohibits businesses from requiring customers to prove their vaccination status while effectively prohibiting government entities in Florida from issuing such documents.
“In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision,” DeSantis said before he signed the bill into law.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Texas, Wyoming and Nebraska are also considering statewide laws against vaccine mandates. A special session in Texas wrapped up on a bill backed by Governor Greg Abbott that would counter the federal vaccine mandate.
Lawmakers in Wyoming will be holding a special session next week to consider their own bills to block vaccine mandates. In Nebraska, Republicans still need more votes to trigger a special session to consider similar bills.
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