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Gov. DeSantis wants special session to ‘protect Florida jobs’ from federal vaccine mandates

Dates for Florida Legislature to meet not yet announced

Gov. Ron DeSantis is following through with his threat for Florida to legally prevent people in the state from being required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to keep their jobs.

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis is following through with his threat for Florida to legally prevent people in the state from being required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to keep their jobs.

At a news conference in Clearwater early Thursday, DeSantis said he was requesting a special session of the Florida Legislature to pass a law blocking the federal government from requiring companies with more than 100 employees that they be vaccinated or regularly tested.

“You have a federal government that is very much trying to use the heavy hand of government to force a lot of these injections and you have a lot of folks that actually believe that that decision should be theirs,” DeSantis said. “We believe in having basic medical freedom and individual choice -- and that your right to earn a living should not be contingent upon COVID shots.”

DeSantis also said forced vaccines would be particularly bad for Florida’s economy and the state will mount an aggressive legal challenge to the federal mandate as well as asking lawmakers to legally block it.

Democrats immediately blasted DeSantis’ announcement.

“This is a purely self-serving political ploy by the governor, once again pulling out all the stops to appease -- and encourage -- extremist positions that fly in the face of science and public health instead of protecting our children, our communities, and our economy,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for governor next year.

Also speaking at the morning news conference -- backed by a people carrying signs reading, “Freedom has a home here” and “Don’t Tread on Florida” -- were Attorney General Ashley Moody and people who have lost their jobs because they refused to be vaccinated.

Stephen Davis, was fired Tuesday from his job a battalion chief of the Orange County Fire Department.

“I was terminated for what I believe to be an unlawful order,” Davis said. “The men and women that I serve in my battalion ... have spoken to me over the last several months, unable to sleep, worried about what would happen if they didn’t get a shot. If they were mandated, would they be able to provide for their families? Would it affect their medical coverage?”

The governor said that because there is no longer a declared emergency in Florida, he doesn’t have the power to block the federal mandate the way that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, sent a memo to lawmakers advising them of the pending special session.

“At this time, we have not received the dates or details regarding any proposed call,” Sprowls wrote. “We are in communication with the governor’s office and our partners in the Senate, and we will share details with you as they emerge.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to be in Tallahassee for committee meetings the weeks of Nov. 1, Nov. 15 and Nov. 29.

Democrats immediately blasted DeSantis’ announcement.

“This is a purely self-serving political ploy by the governor, once again pulling out all the stops to appease -- and encourage -- extremist positions that fly in the face of science and public health instead of protecting our children, our communities, and our economy,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for governor next year, said in a prepared statement.

The DeSantis administration has already fined Leon County -- where the state Capitol is located -- $3.5 million for imposing vaccine mandates on its employees and vowed to sue the Biden administration over its federal vaccine mandate.

DeSantis also wants the legislature to hold businesses who require vaccines of their employees liable if an employee forced to get the vaccine has a bad reaction and want the Legislature to strengthen the “Parents Bill of Rights” during the special session.

For some of those who have not been vaccinated, the message from conservative Republican leaders like DeSantis about choice and liberty resonates, despite public health guidance that vaccines are the best way Americans can prevent serious illness and death from the coronavirus.

“Somehow it has morphed into not getting the vaccine as a way to defend their freedom and resist this ‘tyranny,’ " said Ken Resnicow, a professor in the school of public health at the University of Michigan. “There’s not many countries that have this dynamic.”

News Service of Florida contributed to this report.


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