BRANDON, Fla.—Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed four bills into law on Thursday that will diminish the impact of federal CCP virus vaccine mandates in Florida.
Under one of the new laws, Florida businesses that mandate COVID-19 vaccines will be required to offer exemptions for medical and religious reasons as well as to pregnant women and people who have acquired natural immunity to the virus. Employers will be further required to offer workers exemptions based on regular testing and wearing employer-provided protective equipment.
Other provisions in the new law serve to protect workers ousted over vaccine mandates. The law lao prohibits school districts and officials from requiring students to wear masks.
Businesses that flout the requirement face fines ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 per incident.
“We are standing up for freedom and protecting Florida jobs. Vaccines are not preventing infection,” DeSantis said at the signing ceremony.
The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, is the pathogen that causes COVID-19.
Hosting the signing in Brandon, was no mistake, Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary said.
“There was a message sent,” she said, in an apparent reference to the viral “let’s go Brandon” slogan, which stands for an expletive jab at President Joe Biden. “It was by design.”
The second bill creates a public records exemption to shield private details from the investigations conducted by the attorney general into violations of vaccine mandate laws. Once the investigation is closed it will be available to view by the public except for an individual’s religious or medical information.
The third bill directs the Florida government to formulate a plan to create a new agency to supersede the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The creation of such an agency could establish a legal basis for Florida to defy a federal vaccine mandate for private companies with over 100 employees. Implementation of the OSHA rule is currently on hold after a federal judge temporarily blocked it pending an appeal.
“OSHA rule will crash and burn,” DeSantis said. “This is about power and control. Happy to say we are fighting that.”
The last bill prohibits the Florida surgeon general from manding vaccinations during a public health crisis.
Florida lawmakers returned to Tallahassee on Nov. 15, under the governor’s executive order for a special session to consider bills addressing mask and vaccine mandates.
Now that the bills have been signed into law the governor is turning his attention to two pending federal court cases that will determine the future of two other federal vaccine mandates, one for healthcare employees and another for federal contractors.
DeSantis said at a press conference last week that if the courts sided with the federal government, he plans to ask private employers not to comply with the vaccine mandate.
“My view would be ‘don’t comply’ and we would support the legislature taking some of the stimulus money and using it to pay off the fines for businesses,” DeSantis said during a speech to the National Federation of Independent Business on Nov. 15.
Not all Florida lawmakers were on board with the legislation as many called the special session a “political stunt” that would further what many view as the governor’s White House ambitions.
“I am sick and tired of having to be a pawn in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political ambitions,” Democrat Rep. Anna Eskamani said during the House committee meeting on Nov. 15.
Some Florida Senate democrats echoed these sentiments and said the governor should prioritize issues such as climate change, the rising costs of insurance, and affordable housing.
“Does this session make us safer? No, it doesn’t. Does it address the problems of everyday Floridians? Absolutely not,” said state Rep. Kamia Brown (D). “Two years ago we could only hope and pray for a vaccine … now here we are politicizing something we should be celebrating.”
State Sen. Danny Burgess (R) said that the bills were necessary because “common sense has disappeared faster than toilet paper on the shelves.”
“We have too many politicians acting like doctors and too many doctors acting like politicians,” he said on the state Senate floor Wednesday night.