Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed four bills yesterday primarily focused on requiring Florida businesses to provide vaccine alternatives to their employees. DeSantis used the bill signing ceremony as an opportunity to tell Floridians he is keeping his promise to protect jobs.
“I told Floridians that we would protect their jobs and today we made that the law,” said DeSantis in an official statement. “Nobody should lose their job due to heavy-handed COVID mandates and we had a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the people of Florida. I’m thankful to the Florida Legislature for joining me in standing up for freedom.”
The main bill (HB 1B) requires businesses to allow private-sector employees to avoid vaccination mandate policies if they provide medical reasons, religious exemptions or can prove they have acquired COVID-19 immunity. Employees can also be exempt if they agree to regular testing or agree to use personal protective equipment. Employers could face fines up to $50,000 per violation if they do not follow the law.
The bill also strengthens a law known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” to effectively ban student masks and vaccination requirements in public schools.
DeSantis was joined alongside numerous Florida officials who echoed his “Keep Florida Free” mantra, including Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-FL-10).
“I am honored to be here today as Governor DeSantis signs the ‘Keep Florida Free’ agenda into law. We are sending a clear message that Florida stands for freedom. To our health care workers, law enforcement, first responders, farmers, truckers, and every other worker who never got a day off and couldn’t work from home during the pandemic – thank you for getting us through this crisis. Thank you for putting your family at risk. You stood with us when we needed you most, and we are proud to stand with you now. The Florida Legislature and Governor DeSantis are fighting for you. We will not allow the Biden Administration to make political pawns of the very people who put their lives on the line to keep our economy running while everyone else was safe at home, and we certainly will never cede the responsibility of parenting to the school system or bureaucrats in the federal government. Florida respects the dignity of work, the responsibility to parent and the right to live in freedom.”
Florida Democrats have been critical of the special session since its initial call.
“Ultimately this is about power, right?” said State Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-FL-63). “This entire special session was a power play on the governor, so it does not behoove the legislative leadership, who seems to be in lockstep with this governor, to speak out in a way that would be contrary to him.”
The series of bills also puts in motion a plan to withdraw Florida from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). However, OSHA suspended the vaccine mandate after a court ruling upheld its pause last week.
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