Florida GOP Leaders Vote Against Vaccine Mandates

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign a bill that would limit vaccine mandates in Florida for both public and private employers, after Republicans in the state Senate approved it during a special session earlier this week.

Senate Bill 1 aims to ban private-sector employers requiring employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19, unless they allow at most five exemptions to this mandate, which includes immunity from prior COVID-19 infections and medical reasons.

The bill also allows employees to opt-out of vaccine mandates if the worker agrees to be tested frequently, for which they would not be financially responsible, and if the worker agrees to use employer-provided personal protection equipment.

The bill, which was passed during a special session that was devoted to vaccine mandates, would also prohibit employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations in the public education and government sectors.

The Florida legislature explained 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 healthcare decisions for their children.”

According to 10 Tampa Bay, the bill was passed mainly by party lines in a 24-14 vote, after the Florida House had passed the same bill earlier that day.

Three other bills related to the pandemic were also approved by the legislature on Wednesday. One would prohibit the public release of information about state investigations into vaccine policies of businesses and the other would remove the authority of the state Surgeon General to order vaccines.

The legislature also passed a bill to direct the state’s attention to the possibility of withdrawing from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is the agency that created President Biden’s vaccine and testing requirements for big businesses. 

DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, said that Gov. De Santis 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.”

Florida is among a few Republican-led states to have filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s mandate for large private businesses to test and receive vaccines. The state also sued the White House for a different mandate regarding vaccines that applies to federal contractors.

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