Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday vowed to challenge the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate, calling the order unconstitutional and an “abuse of emergency power.”
“Florida will contest that immediately,” DeSantis said, later adding, “I think this rule is absolutely going down.”
The legal call-to-arms came hours after White House officials unveiled a finalized version of the U.S. employer mandate. Under the rule, employers with more than 100 workers must ensure employees are fully vaccinated or provide weekly COVID-19 testing. The mandate, officials say, will impact roughly 84 million workers, or two-thirds of private sector jobs. The rule will take effect Jan. 4.
“People should not be in a situation where they’re faced with the jab or their jobs,” DeSantis objected at a Jacksonville event. “We want to protect people’s jobs. It’s not right to treat people that way.”
The 490-page rollout comes weeks after Biden lashed out at unvaccinated Americans. They, Biden charged in September, are causing “a lot of damage.”
“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden told unvaccinated Americans.
The order, implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), threatens steep fines. Businesses may face fines upward of $14,000 per violation, OSHA officials said.
A separate order, meanwhile, carries more stringent requirements.
Health care workers at facilities and hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid will be required to get vaccinated under a ruling issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Additionally, employees of the executive branch and contractors in business with the federal government will also be required to get vaccinated — with no option to test out.
DeSantis is among a handful of Republican state leaders rebuking the mandate. Among other arguments, he asserted OSHA lacks the authority to impose such a sweeping mandate, even under emergency rules.
The mandate, he further contends, is part of a broader overreach by the federal government
“That’s not the way our constitutional system is set up,” DeSantis said. “Florida will be responding.”
State lawmakers will convene this month to discuss the vaccine requirements.
DeSantis — who ordered a Special Session in October, to be held this month — is asking lawmakers to consider legislation to protect employees and job applicants from discrimination over their vaccination status.
He also wants the Republican-led Legislature to avail unemployment benefits to people who lose work because of their vaccination status.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls is among those leading the legislative charge.
“From OSHA mandates to CRT, Joe Biden wants to use the government to re-engineer America,” Sprowls tweeted. “In FL, we’ve built a state that respects work, cops, parents & personal responsibility. I look forward to standing with my friends Gov. Ron DeSantis & (Senate) President Wilton Simpson to keep FL free.”
The Special Session begins Nov. 15.