DeSantis, Florida lawmakers challenge Biden policies

Florida lawmakers during this week’s special legislative session. Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Times

On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis, joined by Republican Florida lawmakers in Brandon, signed a bill protecting Florida residents from losing their jobs to federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The bill, approved one day earlier by the Republican-controlled Legislature, is designed to remove COVID-19 vaccine mandates from President Biden’s administration — in addition to Florida cities and counties — from taking effect in Florida.

DeSantis said he’s thankful to the Florida Legislature for joining him in standing up for freedom.

“I told Floridians that we would protect their jobs, and today we made that the law,” DeSantis said at the news conference. “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.”

A year ago, Biden said he had no plans to require vaccinations. However, the administration’s policy changed this fall after more than 80 million Americans still had not gotten the vaccine, even though they were eligible.

Republican-led states, including Florida, began suing the administration to block the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rules. The rule has been temporarily put on hold by a federal appeals court.

Last month, DeSantis called for a special session to begin on Nov. 15 and end no later than Nov. 19. DeSantis’ insisted that this session would protect Floridians who have lost their jobs or have their employment threatened due to vaccine mandates.

One of the bills he signed Thursday — there were four altogether — prohibits businesses from having vaccine or test policies. There will also be state fines of $50,000 for medium and large companies and $10,000 for smaller companies that don’t allow employees to opt-out.

DeSantis was joined at the signing by Attorney General Ashley Moody, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, and Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby.

Ladapo said the special session ensures the law reflects the value of liberty in Florida.

“The mission of this special session was to ensure that the law reflects the values of liberty in our state,” Ladapo said. “Floridians are now protected in their jobs, at school, and as parents to choose how to protect themselves from COVID-19.”

Senator Danny Burgess said this bill shows Florida’s leadership.

“While Washington squabbles, Florida leads,” Burgess said. “That’s why people all over the country want to move here. When Florida leads, other states follow our example.”

In addition to employer COVID-19 mandates prohibited, this new laws say that educational institutions may not require students to be vaccinated. School districts cannot have school face mask policies or quarantine healthy students, and students and parents may sue to violate school districts and recover costs and attorney fees.