Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued his official call for a Special Session regarding vaccine mandates.
DeSantis last week stated his intent to call a Special Session to address vaccine requirements mandated by businesses and the federal government and to provide assistance to Floridians who lose their jobs because of those mandates. The Special Session will run from Monday, Nov. 15, to no later than Friday, Nov. 19, a week when lawmakers will already be in Tallahassee for a previously scheduled committee week.
“Your right to earn a living should not be contingent upon COVID shots,” DeSantis said. “We have somehow gone from 15 days to slow the spread to 3 jabs to keep your job. In Florida, we believe that the decision whether or not to get a COVID shot is a choice based on individual circumstances, so we are litigating against the (Joe) Biden Administration and will be passing legislation in this Special Session to protect Florida jobs and protect parents’ rights when it comes to masking and quarantines. The health, education, and wellbeing of our children are primarily the responsibility of parents. As long as I am Governor, parents in Florida will play a strong role in determining what their kids are learning and how they’re treated in school.”
DeSantis is asking lawmakers to consider legislation to protect employees and job applicants from discrimination over their vaccination status. The same would go for employees, students and residents of educational institutions and government entities.
Earlier Friday, DeSantis told reporters he had signed the proclamation that morning. During that press conference, he railed against Biden and his administration.
“What is not appropriate is to have the federal government come in, blundering into state and local matters, and acting like they have a right to facilitate a local district breaking state law,” he told reporters. “I mean, just think of where that would lead to. And just think if the shoe’s on the other foot how they would feel if there were certain things that were not being done.”
The Governor also wants the Republican-led Legislature to avail unemployment benefits to people who lose work because of their vaccination status. He also wants an avenue for “employees injured by a COVID-19 vaccination” to seek compensation.
DeSantis also asked the Legislature to strengthen the Parents’ Bill of Rights, passed and signed this spring, to clarify that parents have the final decision on masking their children, not government entities.
One point legislative leaders raised was the possibility of creating an occupational safety and health agency beyond the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which Biden plans to use to enforce mask mandates on large businesses. DeSantis’ proclamation calls for the Legislature to direct the state to evaluate whether it should assert jurisdiction over occupational oversight for government and private employees, accusing the Biden administration of having “cajoled” businesses to mandate injections.
Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls issued a joint statement shortly after the proclamation went public calling Florida under DeSantis a beacon of hope. Both said they will do everything in their power to protect residents from the federal government’s “unconstitutional, un-American, and morally reprehensible overreaches.”
“Over the last two years, Floridians have watched the freedoms of our friends and relatives in other states get stripped away one at a time. We will not stand by as the Biden Administration imposes an illegal and unconstitutional nationwide vaccine mandate that robs the American people of the dignity of work,” they said.
Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book called the Special Session a nonsensical move, noting that the state’s largest employers, business leaders and economists never mentioned the desire for a vaccine mandate ban during conferences this week, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Future of Florida Forum.
“Governor DeSantis has called lawmakers to join a nonsensical battle pitting the State of Florida against both the business community and the Biden administration,” Book said. “Instead of doing the people’s work during a designated committee week, the Florida Legislature’s time and attention has now officially been sequestered to what even Republicans have characterized as a ‘no-win’ battle against commonsense health and safety measures which aims to take freedom of choice away from business owners.”
At a Florida TaxWatch event on Thursday, House Speaker-designate Paul Renner predicted no one would leave the Special Session happy.
“Probably nobody’s happy at the end,” he said. “The people on the side of vaccinate or terminate are unhappy. And the people that are on the side of, ‘I can tell my employer what the terms of my employment are and if I get sick they have to pay for it,’ they’re probably not going to be happy either.”