Florida Republicans vote to limit vaccine mandates
A bill to limit vaccine mandates for public and private employers in Florida is headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) desk after Republicans in the state Senate approved the measure during a special session on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 1 seeks to ban private-sector employers from requiring their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they allow at least five specific exemptions to the mandate, including for medical and religious reasons and immunity from a prior COVID-19 infection.
Additionally, the bill would allow employees to opt out of vaccine mandates if they agree to be tested regularly, which the worker would not be financially liable for, and if they agree to use employer-provided personal protective equipment.
The bill would also forbid employers in the government and public education sector from mandating COVID-19 vaccines.
The bills were approved during a special session focusing on vaccine mandates.
The Florida Legislature said in a statement on Wednesday that the bill “protects students, parents, workers and employers in our state by creating a framework for employees to make the best decision for their health and affirming the rights of parents to make health care decisions for their children.”
The legislature also said the measure “protects parental choice on masks, vaccines and quarantine.”
The state Senate passed the bill mainly along party lines in a 24-14 vote, according to 10 Tampa Bay, after the Florida House passed the same bill earlier in the day.
The legislature also approved three other bills on Wednesday related to the pandemic, including one that would stop the public release of information related to state investigations of businesses’ vaccine policies and another that would take away the state surgeon general’s authority to mandate vaccines.
Additionally, the legislature passed a bill that would direct the state to start looking into potentially withdrawing from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency tasked with creating President Biden’s vaccine and testing requirement for large businesses.
DeSantis’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, told The Hill the governor is “confident that this legislation delivers on his promise: Floridians won’t lose their jobs over COVID vaccine mandates and will be protected from invasive, discriminatory policies. Parents’ rights will also be strengthened.”
“The governor looks forward to signing the legislation very soon,” she added.
DeSantis sounded a similar note on Wednesday, writing in a tweet that he is looking forward to signing the bills “that will protect their jobs and the jobs of all Floridians who are facing unjust termination due to heavy-handed mandates!”
I look forward to signing legislation that will protect their jobs and the jobs of all Floridians who are facing unjust termination due to heavy-handed mandates!
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) November 17, 2021
Florida is one of a number of GOP-led states that has filed a lawsuit challenging the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large private business. Additionally, the state has sued in response to a different vaccine mandate from the White House that pertains to federal contractors.