Ron DeSantis gets his anti-mandate medicine during Special Session
Image via AP.

Vaccine mandates in Florida took a hit, but DeSantis gets a win.

The Florida Legislature on Wednesday handed Gov. Ron DeSantis a victory in his campaign against the Joe Biden administration, passing a bill meant to blunt federal vaccine mandates by creating a new state vaccine policy.

It also provided $5 million to the Florida Attorney General’s office to help fund the state’s legal challenge against the federal rules.

The Senate voted 24-14 Wednesday night to pass HB 1B, which had passed the House 78-39 hours earlier.

The vote was the climax to a three-day Special Session pushed by DeSantis, who at the start of the year championed the use of vaccines to battle COVID-19, but over the last few months has battled with the cruise industry and federal authorities over vaccine mandates and vaccine passports.

“Today we are sending a clear message that Florida stands for freedom. To our health care workers, law enforcement, first responders, farmers, truckers, and every other worker who never got a day off and couldn’t work from home during the pandemic – thank you for getting us through this crisis. Thank you for putting your family at risk. You stood with us when we needed you most, and we are proud to stand with you now. The Florida Legislature and Governor DeSantis are fighting for you,” Senate President Wilton Simspon said in a prepared statement. “We will not allow the Biden Administration to make political pawns of the very people who put their lives on the line to keep our economy running while everyone else was safe at home, and we certainly will never cede the responsibility of parenting to the school system or bureaucrats in the federal government. Florida respects the dignity of work, the responsibility to parent, and the right to live in freedom.”

House Speaker Chris Sprowls called the bill the  “smartest strongest legislation in America” to combat the vaccine mandate.

 “We are proud to stand alongside businesses and provide some sanity and options to treat their employees as the individuals they are instead of succumbing to a one-size-fits-all federal mandate,” Sprowls said in the statement. “The result of this week’s work is simple: No one who is subject to Florida law will be forced to get a vaccine who does not want one. I look forward to seeing the Governor sign these bills to make this the law of the land in our state.”

While Democrats said Republicans were giving voice to those opposed to vaccines, including those who espoused conspiracy theories about them, Republicans contended the legislation was intended to protect workers from losing their jobs over a personal health care decision.

“The problem that we seek to address was not caused by us, it was caused by Washington; the first federally mandated vaccine in our nation’s history,” said Sen. Danny Burgess, who sponsored the Senate’s version of the proposal that prohibits private employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccination without providing employees five different avenues to opt out of the mandate.

“It wasn’t Florida that stepped out of line,” he continued.

Exemptions are made for medical, pregnancy, or anticipated pregnancy reasons, religious reasons, COVID-19 immunity, periodic testing or use of employer-provided personal protective equipment.

As of Monday, there were an average 1,564 new COVID-19 cases over a seven day period. Since the onset of the virus in early 2020, there have been 3,673,033 cases of COVID-19 in in the state, according to data posted on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data shows 60,846 Florida residents have died of COVID-19.

Sen. Shevrin Jones said DeSantis alleges the federal government’s vaccine mandates are an overreach.

“What are we doing here today?” asked Jones, a Democrat from Miami Gardens. “We are doing the same exact thing that we are saying the President is doing. We are doing that same thing today with businesses. It is hypocritical.”

But Sen. Ben Albritton, a Republican from Bartow, said people are pushing back against a mandated vaccine adding, “I am proud we’re choosing to fight for individual rights.”

Sen. Jason Pizzo said leadership agreed to include $5 million in the bill for the Attorney General’s office, but included in the legislation no direction as to how the funding should be spent. Pizzo joked that funding with no legislative direction is the thing for which “Democrats get made fun of.”

Before passing the bill, Senate Democrats tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill but the amendments either were ruled out of order or rejected.

Sen. Annette Taddeo offered amendments to remove a $10,000 penalty the Florida Attorney General can levy against small businesses.

“They are having trouble meeting payroll. How are they going to meet this fee?” Taddeo said. “It’s awful taxation.”

But Burgess said removing the financial penalties removes protections for those who work at small firms, and the goal of the bill was to ensure, “no Floridians, no matter where they work, are subject to a vaccine mandate,” Burgess said.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules DeSantis and the Republican-led Florida Legislature are trying to blunt don’t impact businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

A small business owner, Taddeo said she preferred the federal OSHA rules to the policy Florida was passing.

Sen.Tina Polksy also pressed Burgess on why Florida is including small companies in the new law.

”If the federal rule doesn’t affect employers with less than 100 employees, then aren’t we going a lot further than countering the federal law?” she asked.

Burgess answered: “We are going further than countering federal rule. We are standing on principle.”

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


  • zhombre

    November 17, 2021 at 6:54 pm

    Anti-mandate not anti-vaxx. This sort of distortion is why trust in the news media has eroded. SEE ALSO: Rittenhouse, Kyle; Sandmann, Nicholas; Collusion, Russian; transgender exposure, Wi Spa; anti-Asian bias, Atlanta shooter; phony rape story, UVA fraternity; false rape allegation, Duke LaCrosse team; laptip, Hunter Biden; Avenatti, Michael; “Hands up, don’t shoot,” Ferguson, MO.

  • Jerry

    November 18, 2021 at 8:17 am

    More and more, Democrats act like an abusive lover. They constantly try to control you. And then they constantly try to twist things to make it seem like it’s your fault or that it’s your doing.
    This was all started by a president that is overreaching his authority to force an injection of a vaccine, that is less than a year old, into the population. And he’s threatening the careers and well-being of people who refuse. There are people who are not comfortable with a vaccine that has very limited long-term data, that was created on a rushed timetable, and the FDA has not been fully forthcoming on the data used to make the approval decisions. And all this president does is stand up there reading from teleprompters telling Americans his “patience is wearing thin” because we are not getting the jab. Biden is the one causing all this mess. He’s the one to blame that we now have to pass laws to protect individual liberty. He’s the one trying to expand the reach and power of the federal government. He’s the reason we have to have this special session in Tallahassee. Stop blaming the Republicans who are doing nothing but trying to preserve the few freedoms we have left in this country.

    And you now you have Democrats in our legislature trying to turn this conversation around and blame Republicans for protecting the rights of the people. Republicans aren’t supposed to pass laws on private business decisions, only Democrats can do that, right? Democrats can force businesses to mandate a vaccine, but Republicans can’t forbid that? Is that what the Democrats are saying is hypocritical?

    If you think the Democrats aren’t power-hungry. Look at Biden’s nominee for Comptroller. It’s a woman that believes we need to eliminate private banking. She thinks we need to only be able to deposit money to accounts held by the federal reserve. In other words, they want the government to control your bank accounts. This is communism! Just more proof that the Democrats want state control of everything! Government everywhere. I will NEVER vote for a Democrat! They are insane!

    • zhombre

      November 18, 2021 at 8:39 am

      Well said, Jerry.

      Omarova, that Comptroller nominee, is an out and out communist. Putting her charge in that position is a radical and dangerous move.

    • Alan

      November 18, 2021 at 1:08 pm

      Biden has been a political bully his entire career, and usually on the wrong side of history and cultural opinion. That is one of the main reasons he was never able to get any legislation passed. He also doesn’t seem to be very intelligent. So why is anyone surprised by his actions when now he’s the head bully? This is the power he’s always wanted. He’s a troll. He will drive this country into the dirt and closer to communist rule. He’s got to go n any way possible. ANY way.

      • zhombre

        November 18, 2021 at 1:17 pm

        I wrote off Biden as a hack without scruples in 1988. In the interim, I’ve lowered my opinion of the man. That such a corrupt and stupid man, now in quasi-senescence, achieved the highest executive office in the nation, with a talentless, tactless VP “of color,” is an indicator of how inept political leadership in this country has become.

  • Marshall Tyrell

    November 18, 2021 at 11:35 am

    Florida, you are the envy of the nation. You’re so lucky to have Gov. DeSantis fighting for your freedoms.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn


This is default text for notification bar