Conservative activists pressure Pinellas legislative delegation to support Special Session bills

The Special Session kicks-off Monday.

Members of the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation faced pressure from the public Tuesday morning to clear bills proposed in the upcoming Special Session addressing mask and vaccine mandates.

The speakers, several representing local fringe-conservative groups, urged lawmakers to pass the Special Session legislation without amendment. The proposed bills include measures to limit federal mandates dealing with COVID-19 vaccinations. One proposal also lays the groundwork for the state to withdraw from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and assert state jurisdiction over occupational safety and health issues.

“This Legislature, by not enacting these bans or by watering down legislation, will be perpetuating an unjustly lucrative market by government-imposed coercion,” said Geoffrey Caputo of Florida Populists.

Several commenters cited fear of losing their jobs over vaccine mandates, which would be prohibited by one of the proposals, SB2 and HB 1B.

“Soon I’m going to be out of work,” said Brandi March. “There are people losing their jobs after filing their religious exemptions. How is that following the constitution? Once people lose their jobs, most likely they will be required to get the vaccine to re-enter the workforce. How does that follow basic human rights?”

Some speakers resorted to controversial remarks, going so far as to compare the distribution of the vaccine to the Holocaust, citing misinformation about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines approved for children.

“We can deduce that we’re using our children as lab rats. Where is the outrage? Any child that dies of vaccine-related injuries without any of you doing anything to stop that — the blood is on your hands,” said public commenter Amanda DeArmas. “You must have not heard of the Nuremberg trials, and it shows, because let me tell you that indifference or blaming it on their superiors did not save them from being put to death for experimenting on humans.”

To note, complications from the COVID-19 vaccination are rare, and the vaccine has been ruled safe and effective for children aged 5 and up. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to date, only two serious types of health problems after vaccination have been found, both of which are rare — anaphylaxis and thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) after vaccination with the Johnson&Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Although some speakers shared harsh words toward lawmakers Tuesday, the meeting was less heated than the delegation’s previous forum, where Republican lawmakers were subject to scrutiny by conservative activists. At that meeting, commenters, many from the county’s Community Patriots group, pointed their criticism toward conservative members of the delegation — including Reps. Chris Latvala and Nick DiCeglie and Sens. Ed Hooper and Jeff Brandes.

While none of the members of the Pinellas County Delegation are primary sponsors of the legislation, the bills will likely breeze through the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected]


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