DeSantis signs legislation limiting vaccine mandates in Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's Morning Report - Democrats sense opportunity with SCOTUS vacancy Broward County Sheriff sacks deputy union head amid COVID-19 dispute Biden leading Trump, DeSantis by similar margins in new poll MORE (R) signed legislation aimed at curbing vaccine mandates for several groups of employees on Thursday. 

The legislation prohibits private businesses in the state from enforcing a vaccine mandate unless they grant certain exemptions, including for religious or health reasons or for prior COVID-19 recovery. Employees could also be exempted from the requirement if they choose to use personal protective equipment or undergo regular COVID-19 testing.

The legislation also bans educational or government institutions from enforcing vaccine mandates. 

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Private employers who disregard the legislation may face fines. Small businesses — those with 99 or fewer workers — could be fined $10,000 for each violation, while larger businesses could be fined $50,000 for the same.  

“There’s times you need to stand up and you need to make your voice heard, and we had the ability to do it,” DeSantis said during a press conference.

“At the end of the day, nobody in Florida should be losing their job over these jabs. We want people to be able to work, we want people to be able to provide for their families. We want people to be able to have livelihoods, and that’s just the way it’s going to be in this state,” he added.

"Governor DeSantis is proud to take this stand and protect Floridians against unconstitutional, unscientific, job-killing federal overreach," DeSantis's press secretary, Christina Pushaw, told The Hill in a statement.

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The location where DeSantis chose to sign the legislation — Brandon, Fla. — alluded to the phrase "Let's go, Brandon," which conservatives have popularized as a coded insult to President BidenJoe BidenFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Romney tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi sidesteps progressives' March 1 deadline for Build Back Better MORE.

The phrase first caught on following an October NASCAR race where a reporter misinterpreted the crowd's chants of "F--- Joe Biden," saying, “As you can hear the chants from the crowd — ‘Let’s go, Brandon.'”

The Biden administration in September announced the rollout of a new vaccine mandate for private businesses with 100 or more employees, later scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 4, 2022. Following a multi-state lawsuit led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), a federal appeals court issued a stay on the mandate — and affirmed that stay last week.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which developed the mandate, suspended its enforcement on Wednesday in response to the court ruling.

Florida has also filed a lawsuit challenging the mandate, as well as another Biden administration vaccine mandate for federal contractors.

— Updated at 6:56 p.m.