During a press conference on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Senate President Wilton Simpson, and House of Representatives Speaker Chris Sprowls announced the agenda for the special legislative session.
The agenda focuses on the federal rules on vaccination and mandates that were announced last week.
On Monday, DeSantis said, “No Democrat will help any of these workers. Biden said cops should get fired, nurses should get fired. That’s his position.”
“I don’t want to see some nurse get thrown out of their job. Having worked throughout the whole pandemic, having cared for COVID patients, and most of these nurses have had COVID and do have immunity. To just throw them out of their jobs, that’s not right,” said DeSantis.
The agenda consists of four bills that would prevent COVID-19 vaccine mandates from employers or schools and a bill for Florida to withdraw from OSHA.
During a phone briefing on Monday, Governor DeSantis’ Chief of Staff, James Uthmeier, spelled out the agenda and what is expected to take place next week:
Private Employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates are prohibited.
- If employers do have a vaccine policy, then they must afford the following exceptions:
- Employees with health or religious concerns are exempt from any vaccine requirement
- Pregnant women or women who anticipate pregnancy are exempt.
- Employees who have recovered from COVID-19 are exempt.
- Employers must provide ALL EMPLOYEES the option to choose periodic COVID-19 testing or PPE as an alternative to a vaccine requirement (at no cost to employees) – test frequency to be determined by the Florida Department of Health.
Employers who violate these employee health protections will be fined.
- Small businesses (99 employees or less) will face $10,000 per employee violation.
- Medium & big businesses will face $50,000 per employee violation.
Government entities may not require COVID-19 vaccinations of anyone, including employees.
Educational institutions are also included in the special legislative session:
- Educational institutions may not require students to be COVID-19 vaccinated.
- School districts may not require students to wear face masks.
- School districts may not quarantine healthy students.
- Students and parents may sue violating school districts and recover attorney’s fees
In October, Gov. DeSantis asked the Florida Legislature to provide protections for employees facing termination because of unfair, discriminatory COVID-19 vaccine mandates and to reaffirm that government entities including school districts may not fire an employee based on COVID-19 vaccine status.
Violating government entities should be held accountable. Employers’ broad liability protections should also be reevaluated if they harm employees through vaccine mandates.
In addition, DeSantis is asking the Florida Legislature to provide greater protections to parents to manage the health care decisions of their children, including the freedom to opt their children out of mask mandates.
According to Florida Department of Health data over the last twelve to fourteen months, COVID-19 infection data from Florida counties reflects no meaningful difference between counties with parent opt-outs for mask requirements.
The state surgeon general called for a more open and honest discussion about vaccinations, saying the lack of transparency was adding to vaccine hesitancy in the state, and promised to “work like hell” to help Floridians.
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