Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs series of anti-vaccine mandate bills

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  • Screenshot via Twitter / Ron DeSantis

Governor Ron DeSantis promptly signed four bills on Thursday after a special legislative session aimed primarily at preventing workers from being forced to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Focusing on the immunization mandates being pursued by the White House, DeSantis touted the “strongest law ever enacted anywhere in the country” and said Florida “respects the individual freedoms of the people.”

“States are the primary vehicles for protecting people’s freedoms, their health, their safety, their well-being, in our constitutional system,” DeSantis said at a bill signing ceremony at Brandon Honda in the community of Hillsborough County in Brandon. “What Biden is” to do is unconstitutional. There has never been a federal mandate on vaccines imposed on the general public. ”

DeSantis has spent months battling with the Biden administration over COVID-19 policies, and Thursday’s event took place in a community that shares a name with part of a disparaging conservative slogan about the President Joe Biden – “Let’s Go Brandon. ”

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Attorney General Ashley Moody called the community of Hillsborough County a “shining town on the hill representing freedom,” resulting in the first brief series of “Come on Brandon” calls during the event.

Some Brandon Honda employees, lined up behind DeSantis, were holding signs that read “Brandon Florida” and “Freedom has a home here”.

Asked why Brandon was selected for the bill signing event, DeSantis, who referred to the Biden administration as the “Brandon administration”, replied that “Brandon, Florida is a great American city.”

The Republican-controlled House and Senate passed the bills along almost straight party lines on Wednesday on the final day of a three-day special session called by DeSantis.

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The Main Bill (HB 1B) allows Florida private sector workers to avoid vaccination requirements if they provide medical, religious or can demonstrate “immunity to COVID-19.” Additionally, they may be exempt if they agree to undergo regular COVID-19 testing or wear personal protective equipment. Employers could face fines of up to $ 50,000 per violation if they do not follow the law properly.

The bill also prohibits government agencies from requiring that workers be vaccinated. In addition, it strengthens a law known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” to ban the wearing of masks and compulsory vaccinations in public schools.

The school portion of the bill came after months of legal battles between the state and some school districts that required students to wear masks. These districts recently dropped mask requirements as COVID-19 cases declined and districts did not impose a vaccination mandate.

Democrats criticized the new laws and the special session, which they decried as a waste of time and as being about DeSantis’ widely speculated ambitions for the White House in 2024.

“It’s a shame that the governor chooses to call a symbol of technological and medical progress ‘the jab’ to continue scaring people and confusing them about the effectiveness of the vaccine,” the co-chief said. House Minority Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale, in a statement. “We must continue to listen to public health and medical experts to overcome this pandemic and truly let Floridians thrive. ”

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Senator Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said the measures, which also include a bill to start moving away from oversight of worker safety by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration at work, “will undermine the safety of workers and tie the hands of small businesses.”

“This week is yet another charade of power-hungry politicians who care more about scoring each other than protecting families and communities,” Jones said after the session ended Wednesday.

But House Speaker Chris Sprowls of R-Palm Harbor said the bills “send a clear message to the Biden administration and the federal government that Florida stands for freedom.”

Additionally, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo said the legislation opposes a federal belief that “you are not in control of your body” and called for a requirement for students to wear “spiritual warfare” masks. .

Florida has filed three lawsuits against federal immunization warrants, including a challenge filed Wednesday in Pensacola in which Moody seeks to block a directive that says workers in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers must be vaccinated.

“We know that in our Florida counties we are already seeing devastating losses of health care workers,” Moody said. “It will decimate our ability to provide essential and essential health care to Floridians.”

Florida has also challenged vaccination requirements for employees of federal contractors and employees of companies with 100 or more workers. OSHA announced on Wednesday that the rule for employers of 100 or more workers was suspended after an order from the U.S. 5th Court of Appeals, which hears cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The ordinance did not resolve the underlying legal issues in the fight over the vaccination requirement.

After signing the invoices on Thursday, DeSantis said, “not bad for a few weeks of work.” Republican leaders agreed ahead of the session on details of the four bills, which remained unchanged during committee hearings and floor debates in the House and Senate.

The other invoices:

—- HB 3B, which creates a public records exemption linked to allegations that employers violated the law preventing vaccination warrants. The exemption would protect from public disclosure of information on investigations into alleged violations.

—- HB 5B, which will initiate a process that could see the state take OSHA control of worker health and safety issues. In part, the bill provides $ 1 million to DeSantis offices to work on a resumption plan for OSHA.

—- HB 7B, which removes the authority of the State Surgeon General to order vaccinations in the event of a public health emergency.

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