Wilton Simpson: Special Session discussion underway, details coming possibly by Friday

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Legislative leadership has discussed it, but details are still murky.

Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ push for a Special Session in November to pass new laws dealing with vaccine mandates is still a work in progress.

Senate President Wilton Simpson said Wednesday he does anticipate lawmakers will meet in a Special Session, but he did not provide exact details — including when it will be held or what legislation will ultimately be considered. He couldn’t even say for sure if legislative leaders would officially call lawmakers back to the Capitol or if the call would come from DeSantis himself.

“I think we will know all of that by the end of the week, who will proclaim (the Special Session) and what the content will be,” said Simpson, who was in Orlando at the Florida Chamber of Commerce two-day Future of Florida forum.

The Trilby Republican said he had spoken with House Speaker Chris Sprowls about the potential for a Special Session, but he told Florida Politics the conversations have been limited.

“We have talked very little about it,” Simpson said. “Actually we are waiting to figure out what it is exactly, how we would lay these issues out that the Governor has identified. And so we are still in the beginning stages of getting that together,” Simpson said.

He said he doesn’t think there is an advantage — or disadvantage — to legislative leadership proclaiming the Special Session as opposed to the Governor.

DeSantis said at a press conference last week he wanted lawmakers to meet ahead of the January regular Session to put a halt on vaccine mandates enacted by Florida businesses and to “provide protections for employees.”

While the Governor has said no one should lose their job for refusing to get a shot, his own proposals stop short of a complete ban on employer vaccine mandates. Instead, the administration has suggested workers who had an adverse medical reaction after being forced by their employer to get a vaccine should be able to tap into workers compensation benefits. DeSantis also maintains that employers mandating vaccines be required to provide their staff with notice about religious or health exemptions. If they don’t provide the notice, the employees could sue their employers under the Governor’s proposal.

DeSantis also suggested COVID-19 liability protections passed in 2021 could be pared back for Florida businesses that require their employees to get vaccinated.

DeSantis’ move comes as President Joe Biden‘s administration is forging ahead with its own plan to require health care providers that rely on federal funding to vaccinate their staffs and to require large employers to vaccinate their workers or implement regular COVID-19 testing. DeSantis has vowed to sue the federal government once those mandates are in place.

Though DeSantis has had a warm relationship with the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, his call for a Special Session last week caught legislative leaders by surprise. Democratic lawmakers have slammed DeSantis, contending it was more about a potential 2024 run for President than responding to a legitimate need.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


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