Governor Ron DeSantis today, alongside Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor), announced the joint “Keep Florida Free” legislative agenda to be pursued during the upcoming special legislative session.
The plan outlines a series of four bills aiming to prevent the implementation of new federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements and financial penalties for those that do not comply.
DeSantis promised to fight against federal mandates shortly after its announcement by the Biden administration. Florida has already launched a multi-state lawsuit against the federal government over a separate ruling that requires vaccinations for companies exceeding 100 employees.
“It’s wrong. It’s wrong to treat people like that, it’s wrong to kick people out of work, it’s wrong to try and micromanage businesses like that, and it’s wrong to potentially deprive key industries of people that we need,” said DeSantis.
The introduced bills seek to provide employers and employees with routes to opt out of the requirement including pregnancy, religious belief, and prior COVID-19 infection.
Notably, the legislation would protect employees fired over vaccination status, allowing the dismissed individual to file a complaint to the Attorney General, where a fine of up to $50,000 can be levied on violating businesses.
“We were appalled by the unworkable, 490-page totalitarian edict the Biden Administration issued last week,” said Simpson. After 40 years in the private sector running businesses that depend on an in-person workforce, where significant safety risks have to be mitigated, I am shocked to see such an unconstitutional mockery of the important role of OSHA.”
If passed, the new legislation would withdraw the state from the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and place state ruling over occupational safety and health issues.
Democrats were quick to detract from the proposed legislation.
“If [DeSantis] cared about workers he would have supported a $15 minimum wage, stopped taking millions of dollars from companies that bust unions and he would end corporate tax giveaways,” said Representative Anna Eskamani on Twitter.
A detailed listing of the four bills can be found below:
SB 2B / HB 1B: REJECT COVID-19 VACCINE MANDATES
- Prevents educational institutions and governmental entities from putting vaccine requirements into effect as a stipulation of employment status. Allows for companies to be fined up to $50,000 for non-compliance. The bill would also prevent schools from requiring masks on campus premises, while also opening the possibility for exemptions.
SB 4B/ HB 3B: PROTECT PRIVATE HEALTH CARE AND RELIGIOUS INFORMATION
- Creates a public records exemption for personal medical records or information regarding an employee’s religious beliefs during an investigation of an employer that refuses to provide the individual exemptions or terminates an employee based on COVID-19 vaccination status.
SB 6B/ HB 5B: BEGIN WITHDRAWING FROM OSHA
- Moves toward the development of a proposal to withdraw from the federal OHSA and assert state jurisdiction over occupational safety and health issues.
SB 8B/ HB 7B: REMOVE AUTHORITY OF STATE HEALTH OFFICER TO ORDER VACCINATIONS
- Repeals provisions of existing law, which have never been used, that could allow the State Health Officer to force vaccinations on Floridians.