Florida lawmaker preparing new ‘plan of attack’ to block vaccine, mask mandates
Keith Perry. Image via Colin Hackley.

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The new plan takes two bills, one addressing masks and one addressing vaccines.

Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry filed legislation Thursday expanding on recently passed vaccine and mask mandate bans.

Last week, Perry filed a measure (SB 452) banning mask mandates in schools as well as medical requirements. However, the Senator developed a new plan of attack, including a measure to prevent businesses from requiring vaccines for employees, an ask from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Local governments across the state have been persistently violating COVID-19 policies,” Perry said in a statement to Florida Politics. “We are still looking at the best plan of attack to codify executive orders, and expect to have concrete policies prepared for the coming committee weeks. It is important that the citizens of the state of Florida and my district know that we have not given up the fight against local government overreach.”

Following Perry’s statement, DeSantis announced a plan for lawmakers to hold a Special Session to curb vaccine mandates. Perry’s proposal could be a preview of what’s to come.

As originally filed, Perry’s initial public health bill would prohibit counties and municipalities from requiring any United States citizen undergo a medical procedure or treatment, covering shots. Additionally, it would prevent counties and municipalities from requiring citizens to wear face coverings. Similarly, school boards, superintendents and principals could not require people to wear face coverings.

However, Perry will withdraw that legislation. In its place, he filed two bills Thursday, one addressing masks (SB 592) and one addressing vaccines (SB 594). The vaccine bill would allow people to opt out, in writing, from receiving the shot for moral, ethical, religious or philosophical beliefs.

Perry’s district has become an epicenter in the mask and vaccine mandate fight. After DeSantis signed an executive order banning mask mandates in public schools, the Alachua County School Board became the first board to flout the DeSantis administration with a mask mandate without an opt-out.

The state and the federal government have been engaged in a tug-of-war over school boards that spurn the state. The Florida Department of Education sanctioned school districts that mandated masks. In response, the U.S. Department of Education sent districts cash to offset the withheld funds, drawing another round of sanctions from the state.

Regarding shots, DeSantis held a rally in Alachua County last month to pressure Gainesville to drop its vaccine mandate for city workers or face $5,000 fines. The city ultimately backed down, leading the Governor’s Office to claim victory.

Last week, two days before Perry filed his initial vaccine and mask mandate bill, the Department of Health followed through with $3.57 million in fines against Leon County for requiring vaccines for 714 employees. The state’s capital county fired 14 employees who failed to comply.

However, some have questioned the state’s authority to dictate local governments’ pandemic policies.

This spring, lawmakers passed and DeSantis signed a vaccine passport ban preventing businesses, schools and governments from checking people for proof of vaccination as part of a broader bill on emergency powers (SB 2006). With the recent movement to mandate shots, the DeSantis administration is using that measure to crack down on government employee vaccine requirements. Leon County Administrator Vince Long has teased a lawsuit against the administration challenging whether the vaccine passport ban prevents an employee mandate.

Still, the Governor wants to go further. DeSantis has said he wants the Legislature to pass a law to resist President Joe Biden’s upcoming mandate that large businesses require shots for employees.

Perry hopes to bar businesses, in addition to state and local governments, from requiring employees be inoculated. However, his goal is to address the measure in a way that respects private business freedoms.

Similarly, the DeSantis administration is using the Parents’ Bill of Rights (HB 241), signed in June, to argue that parents have the right to opt their children out of masking requirements.

Perry hopes to codify DeSantis’ school mask mandate ban and an accompanying Health Department emergency rule, which would help clarify the state’s authority to prohibit school mandates. Last week, the third-term Senator tweeted that he wished to “codify the medical liberties of all Floridians.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend students wear masks in schools and that people get vaccinated.

DeSantis’ and Perry’s critics, like The Gainesville Sun’s editorial board, argue mandate bans enforce a one-size-fits-all approach to public health policy that run contrary to DeSantis’ early position that local governments are best-suited to address local conditions.

“Perry’s bill is an acknowledgement that the state has overstepped the law in taking these actions,” the editorial board wrote Wednesday, referring to school district sanctions and the fines against Leon County.

Perry has called his proposal a good opportunity for debate and expert testimony on masking.

“I have not seen what I would call one legitimate study on masks and children,” he told Florida Politics last week.

From the few studies he has seen, he’s concerned about the cleanliness of masks students wear. People potentially go days without washing them, allowing bacteria to build up.

Both the House and Senate held committee meetings this week, with more to come next week ahead of the 2022 Session. The Legislature will hold three more committee weeks in November before the 60-day Session begins Jan. 11.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


9 comments

  • ScienceBLVR

    October 21, 2021 at 7:15 am

    First I ask, who is Keith Perry? I follow most state and national political media and never heard of this guy.. Second, when oh when will our legislature and erstwhile governor start focusing on issues of importance to Floridians instead of this constant beating of the red meat topics for the Trump base that go nowhere and don’t really mean anything? Are masks in school and vaccine mandates really on the top ten list of Floridian’s concerns? Not in my world, and my sphere is large and encompasses folks from a myriad of various economic, social, racial, and ethic groups. I’ve yet to hear anyone say, “Boy, if only DeSantis or his minions can solve this mask/vaccine mandate crisis, Florida will be great!”

    • BJohnM

      October 21, 2021 at 7:47 am

      Sadly, I’m sure there are a few saying exactly that. The problem is, they are really a very small minority, but loud and frankly growing more violent.

    • Jerry

      October 21, 2021 at 8:31 pm

      We can start talking about other issues when you stop threatening to put people out of work for refusing an injection they are highly opposed to. Your non-stop obsession with mandates has divided this nation worse than it ever was and now it’s on the verge of being ripped apart economically. Inflation is out of control. Supply chains are breaking down. Budgets are out of control. Businesses are in the midst of a labor shortage. The Chinese are testing hypersonic missiles. The southern border is a humanitarian disaster.
      And yet all Biden and Democrats want to talk about is skin color, abolishing the Senate filibuster, and ways to force the vaccine into people’s arms even if it means a collapse of the economy. No wonder this incompetent buffoon has an approval rating of 37%. He’s going to be the worst president this country has ever had!

      I will not be getting this vaccine. That is a personal healthcare decision I have made for myself based on my personal medical history, data that I have reviewed, discussions with doctors, friends, and family. And my decision WILL NOT change unless a better, safer vaccine at some point becomes available that has less side effects and has a proven track record. Period. End of story. If you want to continue to try to look for ways to force that experimental crap into everyone’s arm, then the vaccines will continue to be the primary focus of the political debate in this country. But I will tell you this… you will NEVER get that in my arm. NEVER! So we can move on and talk about other important things whenever you are ready. But I’m not taking that injection. Not going to happen while I’m alive. And there are millions of people that feel the same way I do.

    • Brian P

      October 21, 2021 at 8:55 pm

      Biden’s approval rating is in the toilet, bro. And Republicans now lead the generic ballot for Congress. Polls show the public is blaming the Democrats for the inflation and supply chain problems. If that gets worse, and most economists say it will, then the Democrats are going to be facing a Republican tsunami in the mid-terms.

      Not just nationally, but in Florida, Republicans are about to have more registered voters than Democrats for the first time in the state’s entire history! And yet you want to claim that DeSantis is in political trouble? People are moving to Florida, paying crazy real estate prices, in order to escape the crazy and insane liberal policies that are driving blue states into tyranny. You think these new residents are going to come here and vote for Charlie Crist or Val Demings? You think they moved here because they want to give up freedoms and pay more taxes so we can have a big and strong liberal government that will spend each day lecturing us about how terribly racist we all are, or tell us how selfish we are because we won’t get a vaccine? I know who I’m voting for already!

      • Mark D

        October 27, 2021 at 12:22 am

        Brian,

        You mean all the unsuccessful losers who had to sell their unsuccessful homemade soap businesses and decided to come to Florida?I just wanted to clarify that they aren’t affluent expats but more like deflated losers. I don’t think they had enough money to pay the light bills on their failed business let alone enough money to influence the outcome of Florida’s election. Nice try , though.

    • Mark D

      October 27, 2021 at 12:14 am

      Since you asked, he is a nobody – construction worker. He is an example of what happens if you elect an uneducated roofer to a public office. No education in science, economics, or anything like that…. just a below average , uneducated guy who decided to switch from building roofs for houses to…. politics…. naturally.

  • tjb

    October 21, 2021 at 8:29 am

    We now have 730,000 Covid deaths in the USA. The total number of American soldiers killed in WW1, WW2, the Korean War, and Viet Nam was 715,000.

    Florida has 6.5% of the USA population, but it has 8% of the USA Covid deaths.

    DeSantis’s Florida leads the nation in the highest percentage of Covid death on a per capita basis and we are second in the average deaths per day.

  • PeterH

    October 21, 2021 at 12:08 pm

    Republican Bobby Jindal’s “Party of Stupid” ….. continues to amaze the American electorate. Since when is it a “conservative principle” for government to interfere with the internal employee policies of private sector businesses?

  • FP Monitor

    October 21, 2021 at 11:48 pm

    It’s a big mistake is to respond to anything Tom posts. He’s an ignorant Trumpster hack simply looking for attention. Do yourself and all of us a big favor. Ignore all of his return comments. Maybe the internet troll will go away.

Comments are closed.


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