U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist slammed Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday morning, criticizing the Governor’s recently called Special Session to hear bills addressing mask and vaccine mandates.
“What he’s attempting to do, and I think some of our friends in the legislature are trying to make it a little more rational than the governor’s irrational call, is to try to make it so that businesses can’t make decisions for themselves, can’t make decisions about what’s best for the safety not only of their employees but their customers,” Crist said.
Calling the legislative hearings a “not-so-special session,” Crist scrutinized the Governor in the virtual news conference for not prioritizing other issues impacting Floridians, like unemployment, housing affordability, and voting rights. The Democratic Congressman also hosted several Floridian activists to highlight the issues affecting their communities.
“This week, instead of calling back the legislature to focus on issues facing real Floridians, Gov. DeSantis and his administration have opted to continue their assault on common sense COVID safety measures by calling a Special Session to ban business and hospitals from implementing the federal vaccine requirements that would keep their employees and workers, and customers, more safe,” Crist said.
Crist expressed doubt when asked about the Governor’s reasoning for calling the Special Session, which DeSantis attributes to workers’ rights to refuse vaccination.
“Well, it’s an interesting catchphrase, but it’s wrong,” he said. “He talks about freedom. He’s taking away freedom. And he’s trying to impose his will on our state and on our businesses.”
Crist, who is also running for the Governor’s seat in 2022, equated the Session call to political theater.
“The governor pretends to support small government and the free will of business to operate as they need to,” Crist said. “All so, he can run back to his base on Fox News, and continue on his baseless ‘soft on COVID’ crusade, while real Floridians suffer.”
Vanessa Brito, a community activist from Miami, discussed the current unemployment system and its faults. Brito, a full-time caregiver for her sick mother, spends her spare time advocating for people who need help navigating Florida’s complex unemployment system.
“Unemployed Floridians may not be making headlines anymore, but the mismanagement, abuse, and fraud at the DEO are still very much present,” Brito said. “Gov. DeSantis has had two years to fix what he inherited, and it’s still not working. DeSantis could have called a Special Session anytime, and after it was clear how broken our unemployment insurance program was, he still declined to do so.”
More than 3 million Floridians have filed unemployment Claims since March 2020, and there are more than 27,000 applicants currently stuck in a verification queue, Brito said. She also noted that Florida’s maximum weekly benefit amount is one of the lowest in the nation, at $275 per week. The last time Florida updated its maximum weekly benefit amount was in 1998.
“Fixing unemployment is about economic freedom,” she said. “Everyday Floridians who have worked and paid into the system their whole careers just want the economic freedom to get back on their feet, get back to work, and get back to their regular lives.”
Howard Johnston, a voting rights advocate, talked about voting restrictions. Most recently, DeSantis spoke of creating an election-fraud investigation office as part of another proposed election law package, the follow-up to legislation currently facing legal challenges.
“Restricting voting by mail or other alternative approaches, really looks like a solution in search of a problem. DeSantis himself said that Florida’s elections were the most fair, secure and transparent committee in the nation,” Johnston said.
Johnston is worried that with additional restrictions, his disability may make it difficult to cast a ballot.
“Because I have a disability that restricts my mobility, I’ve voted by mail for the past dozen years or so. Restricting mail balloting is going to make it very difficult if not impossible for me to continue my unbroken voting record,” he said.