COVID-19 liability protections and legislation stiffening vaccine fraud penalties are priorities House Speaker Chris Sprowls hopes to send to the Senate during the Legislative Session’s first week.
Speaking at a Thursday media availability, Sprowls suggested business liability protections would likely be the first proposal sent to the upper chamber.
Blessed by DeSantis and Republican leadership, several bills shielding businesses, churches, schools and health care providers from COVID-19-related lawsuits have motored through committees.
Proponents contend the legal protections are needed to fend off frivolous, cash-grabbing lawsuits.
They also suggest the protections can reassure weary business owners operating amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, critics, including Democrats and interest groups such as AARP, warn the proposals offer near blanket immunity.
They further lament the proposal’s lack of employee protections.
“I would like to get business liability done as soon as possible,” Sprowls said.
Meanwhile, Sprowls also highlighted a bill that would create specific penalties for vaccine-related fraud.
The measure, HB 9, would allow victims to pursue civil remedies against fraudsters. Republican Rep. Ardian Zika of Pasco County is the bill sponsor.
“I want to get that done week one as well,” Sprowls said. “The idea (is) getting it to the Governor as soon as possible so that it becomes an additional tool in the toolbox as we hopefully give vaccines to every Floridian that wants one.”
Zika’s proposal comes as law enforcement sounds the alarm about a spike in fraudulent vaccine schemes.
Sprowls cited media stories about “people who have created fake pages to essentially defraud, particularly the elderly population, into thinking that they can give $25 and get a vaccine.”
The push to stiffen penalties has enjoyed bipartisan support.
Last week, House Minority Co-Leader Evan Jenne described the bill as one of the few COVID-19-related proposals that would “help people.”
The 2021 Legislative Session begins March 2.