Governor Ron DeSantis was joined by Florida Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson to sign legislation that will protect Floridians from losing their jobs due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and protect parents’ rights to make healthcare decisions for students. The bills were passed through a Special Session of the Florida Legislature and are effective upon the Governor’s signature. The legislation signed today is the strongest pro-freedom, anti-mandate action taken by any state in the nation.
“I told Floridians that we would protect their jobs and today we made that the law,” said Gov. DeSantis. “Nobody should lose their job due to heavy-handed COVID mandates and we had a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the people of Florida. I’m thankful to the Florida Legislature for joining me in standing up for freedom.”
- Private Employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates are prohibited.
- Employees can choose from numerous exemptions, including but not limited to, health or religious concerns; pregnancy or anticipated future pregnancy; and past recovery from COVID-19.
- Employees can choose to opt for periodic testing or PPE as an exemption.
- Employers must cover the costs of testing and PPE exemptions for employees.
- Employers who violate these employee health protections will be fined.
- Small businesses (99 employees or less) will face $10,000 per employee violation.
- Medium and big businesses will face $50,000 per employee violation.
- Government entities may not require COVID-19 vaccinations of anyone, including employees.
- Educational institutions may not require students to be COVID-19 vaccinated.
- School districts may not have school face mask policies.
- School districts may not quarantine healthy students.
- Students and parents may sue violating school districts and recover costs and attorney’s fees.
Florida House Democratic members issued statements countering Gov. DeSantis. “Businesses are trying to survive during the ongoing pandemic and the Governor, with the support of the Republican Legislature, is hampering their operations. The bills from the Special Session are anti-business and engaged legislators as extras in the Governor’s sideshow to boost his profile as he hopes to become President,” said State Representative Geraldine Thompson.
Progressive State Representative Anna Eskamani called it a “tough week in Tallahassee.” She added that Florida Democrats did not band together to vote down one of the Republican bills, apparently exposing problems internally in the Democratic Party. “There actually was one bill that Democrats could have stopped if we held the line and voted together as a Caucus,” the Orlando state representative told supporters by email.
Attorney General Ashley Moody announced that Florida is challenging the Biden administration in court over the CMS vaccine mandate that Florida says is unlawful and threatens to exacerbate the health care worker shortage.
“Governor DeSantis has shown exemplary leadership throughout the pandemic, and I am proud to stand with him as we challenge unlawful vaccine mandates forced on Floridians by the president and his power-hungry bureaucrats,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody. “I will always fight for freedom, Florida’s sovereignty and the autonomy of American workers.”
There is a clear party divide over vaccine mandates that will likely shape the upcoming election cycle.
“Governor DeSantis was clear: no Floridian should lose their jobs over vaccines mandates,” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. “I applaud the leadership of President Simpson and Speaker Sprowls for their efforts in protecting Floridians. The Free state of Florida will never bend the knee to the Biden Administration’s unconstitutional overreach.”
“The politicization of the vaccine continues. It’s a disgrace the governor chooses to call a symbol of technological and medical advancement “the jab” to continue scaring people and confusing them about the effectiveness of the vaccine. We need to continue listening to public health and medical experts to get over this pandemic and truly let Floridians prosper,” said Democratic Leader Bobby DuBose.