House Democratic Co-Leader Evan Jenne thinks the Legislature will scale back Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ proposal to prevent businesses and government entities from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for employees.
DeSantis on Friday issued his formal proclamation for the Special Session on vaccine mandates scheduled later this month, including the related issues the Governor wants addressed. However, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls have equivocated, saying they intend to support businesses and Floridians against President Joe Biden‘s “illegal and unconstitutional” vaccine mandate without saying they will pass state laws preventing vaccine mandates.
The Republican-led Legislature has frequently backed business, but some influential corporations like Disney have implemented vaccine policies that run contrary to DeSantis’ anti-mandate proposal.
“I have a feeling that some business entities that may be quite important to folks in this building have said, ‘Hey, we don’t appreciate what you’re doing here,'” Jenne told reporters Monday. “So I think you’re going to see that scale back a little bit.”
However, some Republican lawmakers have already voiced support for vaccine mandate bans, including Gainesville Sen. Keith Perry, whose district has played significant roles in both the vaccine and mask mandate fights. He drafted legislation before the Special Session was announced to codify vaccine and mask mandate bans.
Apart from DeSantis’ central call to ban vaccine mandates, the Governor is also asking lawmakers to provide recourse for employees affected by vaccine policies and to strengthen the Parents’ Bill of Rights regarding school masking policies.
Jenne isn’t sure yet how Democrats will counter Republican proposals during the Special Session, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 15.
“This thing was rolled out so haphazardly, without much thought in concrete detail, that it’s given them some wiggle room in terms of what they’ll actually try to accomplish,” Jenne said.
However, Simpson and Sprowls have named at least one specific area of interest — creating a state job safety agency to replace the role of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Biden administration intends to use OSHA to implement vaccine and testing requirements in businesses with 100 or more employees.
Jenne said getting OSHA to approve the proposed state agency, which must at least meet OSHA’s minimum standards, could take years.
“It will be a massive, massive expansion of Florida state government, and the simple fact that it will take years to actually accomplish this shows that it really has nothing to do with COVID,” Jenne said. “It has more to do with trying to score political points on the national stage, which seems to be everyone’s interest in Florida these days.”