TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The special session of the Florida Legislature called by Governor Ron DeSantis is less than two weeks away.
It was called to deal with mask policies, vaccine requirements and other coronavirus-related issues, but as of Tuesday, there was still no specific language for lawmakers to chew on.
With lobbyists in the hallways, Florida’s Capitol resembled pre-pandemic days this week, but vaccines and mask mandates are very much on the agenda in the coming special session.
“To add protections for people in the state of Florida,” said DeSantis when announcing the session in late October.
DeSantis has said businesses mandating vaccines should lose COVID-19 protections passed last year.
Republican Senator Jeff Brandes passed those protections and doesn’t see them changing.
“I don’t plan to support anything that would remove the COVID protects for business, period,” said Brandes.
“We’re gonna see where we land on that as we get ready to launch a special session,” said State Senator Travis Hutson. “I would say it’s in the discussions between the House the Senate and the Governor.”
Hutson, who represents St. Johns County among others, told New4Jax specific bills will be out soon.
“Friday, Saturday. We’ll probably launch some bills then,” said Hutson.
Among the legislation likely to be introduced is a plan for the state to create its own workplace safety agency, replacing the federal agency OSHA, which is about to issue vaccine mandates.
Democratic Senator Audrey Gibson who represents part of Duval County argues businesses should be left alone.
“Those businesses in those communities should be able to exercise their freedom based on the conditions that they know are happening,” said Gibson.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Fried blasted the call for a session.
“And I do hope that this Legislature steps up to the plate, does what right for the people of our state and pulls back the request for the Governor,” said Fried.
Brandes and other GOP lawmakers told us they believe the governor will come away with a legislative win, even if it’s not everything he wants.
The dilemma is that GOP lawmakers are pro-business at almost every turn, so they have a small needle to thread to make the results acceptable to their base, businesses and parents alike.