PENSACOLA, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday defended his decision to start issuing $5,000 fines to businesses, schools and government agencies that require people to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, saying he doesn’t want to create two classes of citizens.
DeSantis signed a bill earlier this year that banned vaccine passports and the fines will start Sept. 16 if people are asked to show proof of a vaccine.
“One, I’m vaccinated, I am offended that someone would make me show something just to go to a restaurant or just to live life,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Pensacola. “My view is we got to protect people’s ability to live their lives. I don’t want a biomedical security state in which are constantly having to do this just to be able to live everyday life.”
DeSantis said his job as governor is to protect individual freedom, not to protect corporate freedom.
The statute reads that a business entity “...may not require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or postinfection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business operations in this state.”
The same rules apply to governmental entities and educational institutions.
The statute continues by stating that it does not otherwise restrict businesses, government entities or educational institutions “from instituting screening protocols consistent with authoritative or controlling government-issued guidance to protect public health.”
Finally, the statute reads, “The department may impose a fine not to exceed $5,000 per violation.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s only statewide elected Democrat and a candidate hoping to challenge DeSantis for governor next year, was critical of the fines.
“Governor DeSantis is retaliating against Floridians who are trying to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19,” Fried said in an emailed statement. “This not only goes against common sense — it’s also an insult to the free market principles that he claims to champion.”