TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has officially signed a proclamation calling for a special session from Nov. 15 to Nov. 19.
His top ask is for lawmakers to protect workers from discrimination based on vaccination status, but there are already rumblings Republican lawmakers aren’t aligned on how to deal with that issue.
And history proves that just because lawmakers will gavel in, doesn’t necessarily mean anything will get done.
There’s an old adage in the state Capitol on special sessions: Don’t call one unless you know the outcome.
“You really want to try and put everything in order first,” said Pete Dunbar, who served as former Gov. Bob Martinez’s director of legislative affairs.
In a 1989 special session on abortion restrictions, Dunbar saw first-hand what can happen if the executive and legislative branches aren’t on the same page.
“Gov. Martinez was one example in his experience, and Gov. (Reubin) Askew had a similar experience when he tried to take Florida off daylight saving time and he couldn’t reach the consensus inside the legislative prerogative. That’s the challenge that we don’t know the answer to yet,” said Dunbar.
And there are early indications Republicans aren’t aligned on banning private employer vaccine mandates.
“There’s a real split on the idea of whether the state should interfere with private employers,” said state Rep. Spencer Roach.
Senate President-Designate Kathleen Passidomo was recently asked if she supported a ban on private employer vaccine mandates. She would have to see the actual legislation but indicated the policy might be a tough sell.
“I support the freedom for businesses to make sure that they’re successful,” said Passidomo.
While Republican lawmakers may have different views on whether the government should interfere with private businesses, all of those we’ve spoken with said they think it’s important to have the conversation.
“People are losing their jobs now. They have lost their jobs,” said state Rep. Cord Byrd.
One thing is certain: Democrats intend to push back.
The governor is also calling on lawmakers to limit school districts’ ability to issue mandates for COVID-19, strengthen the Parents Bill of Rights and ensure workers fired over vaccines can obtain unemployment assistance.
Those measures will likely be opposed by Democrats but aren’t likely to be seen as controversial by the Republican majority.