Florida Legislature Begins Special Session to Address Vaccine Mandates

Florida Legislature Begins Special Session to Address Vaccine Mandates Florida Legislature Begins Special Session to Address Vaccine Mandates Susana Sanchez, a nurse practitioner, prepares to administer a flu vaccination at a CVS pharmacy and MinuteClinic on September 10, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty)

By Charlie McCarthy | Monday, 15 November 2021 05:17 PM

The Florida legislature on Monday began a special session called by Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., to address COVID-19 vaccine mandates and mask rules in the state’s businesses and schools.

Four bills under consideration include those that would increase fines for business, local governments, and other companies that require workers to get vaccines and schools that require masks, WPLG reported.

"We're going to be saving a lot of jobs in the state of Florida," DeSantis said at a press conference, The Hill reported.

"We're going to be striking a blow for freedom. We're going to be standing up against the [President Joe] Biden mandates, and we're going to be better as a result of it."

DeSantis has signed a series of executive orders — e.g. prohibiting COVID-19 passports and banning schools from requiring masks — that go against the Biden administration recommendations.

After Biden announced in early September his plans to implement a federal vaccine mandate on businesses with 100 or more employees, DeSantis said he would not allow such mandates in the Sunshine State.

The special session likely will pass legislation requiring Florida companies that do have a vaccine policy, to allow for these exemptions:

  • Employees with health or religious concerns.
  • Pregnant women or women who anticipate pregnancy.
  • Employees who have recovered from COVID-19.

Also, all employees must be presented a test-out option, by which they can take periodic COVID-19 testing, and offered personal protective equipment as an alternative to a vaccine requirement.

The Florida legislature will be considering $10,000 fines per employee violation for small businesses (99 or fewer employees), and a $50,000 fine per employee violation for medium and large businesses.

Any COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment would be provided at no cost to employees.

Government entities would also be banned from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone, including employees.

As for schools, students could not be forced to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or to wear masks. School districts also wouldn't be able to implement a quarantine system.

Students and parents could sue any school districts violating the law and recover attorneys' fees.

"We support the proposals and draft legislation our partners in the legislature have put forth, and we look forward to working with them to get this across the finish line," DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw told The Hill in an email.

"No Floridian should lose his or her job over COVID shots, and no one has more authority over a child’s upbringing than his or her parents."