State Watch

DeSantis: Local governments will face $5K fines for imposing vaccine mandates

Cities and counties in Florida that require COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment will be fined $5,000 per violation, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Monday.

During a press conference, DeSantis said government agency vaccine mandates violate the state’s law banning private businesses from requiring “vaccine passports” for customers.

“We are gonna stand for the men and women who are serving us. We are gonna protect Florida jobs,” DeSantis said. “We are not gonna let people be fired because of a vaccine mandate.”

DeSantis said any local government that imposes vaccine requirements could risk millions of dollars in fines. He specifically mentioned first responders who refuse to be vaccinated.

“You don’t just cast aside people who have been serving faithfully over this issue, over what’s basically a personal choice on their individual health,” DeSantis said. “We cannot let these folks be cast aside. We cannot allow their jobs to be destroyed.”

The press conference featured men and women from different public sector jobs speaking out against the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccine mandates, including one employee from Gainesville who falsely claimed the vaccine “changes your RNA.”

The governor did not challenge the remark.

DeSantis, who is seen as a likely presidential contender in 2024, has framed vaccination as a personal choice. While he has encouraged Floridians to speak with a physician or trusted doctor about the vaccines, DeSantis has said residents should only be vaccinated if they want to be.

Florida, like other states, already requires a variety of vaccines for children before they enter school, including for chickenpox if there’s been no previous infection; measles, mumps and rubella; diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough; and hepatitis B.

DeSantis’s ban on vaccine mandates represents another warning shot at the Biden administration and its efforts to try to ensure as many Americans as possible are vaccinated against COVID-19.

President Biden last week took a much more forceful step after months of allowing the private sector and local governments to set their own rules on vaccinations.

The White House said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will develop a rule that requires all businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated, or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a weekly negative test.

At least three Republican governors — Doug Ducey of Arizona, Brian Kemp of Georgia and Kristi Noem of South Dakota — either stated explicitly or implied that they would mount legal challenges to Biden’s proposed mandate.

DeSantis is already waging a battle with local school districts and the Biden administration over school mask requirements, and recently claimed a win after an appeals court allowed his ban on mandates to stand while the case is argued.

The Department of Education last week opened a civil rights investigation into whether the governor’s executive order banning mask mandates violates the rights of students with disabilities.

Tags Brian Kemp coronavirus vaccine COVID-19 Doug Ducey Florida Gainesville Joe Biden Kristi Noem mask mandates Ron DeSantis vaccine mandates

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