In his battle against federal coronavirus vaccination regulations, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did not receive everything he wanted from state lawmakers this week.
But, in a three-day special session dubbed “political theatre” by Democrats, the Republican-controlled state legislature on Wednesday gave DeSantis plenty of ammunition to urge companies and hospitals not to comply with President Joe Biden’s desire to immunize the country’s workers.
The Florida House and Senate, primarily along party lines, enacted a package of four legislation safeguarding workers who refuse Covid-19 immunizations. Florida will become the first state to have a legislation imposing sanctions on firms that mandate a Covid-19 immunization as a condition of employment if DeSantis signs it, which is likely in the coming days.
DeSantis, a first-term governor who has been discussed as a potential presidential candidate, wasted no time in declaring victory.
DeSantis did not say how far the final package deviated from the more hardline policies he advocated when he originally requested a special session last month. DeSantis has called for a blanket prohibition on vaccination mandates and threatened corporations who followed Biden’s rule with state safeguards against coronavirus-related litigation.
However, the Biden administration would enable companies to provide testing as an alternative to the injection, it’s unclear whether federal rules for testing frequency are more stringent than Florida’s.
Democrats charged Republicans of prioritizing DeSantis’ political goals before the health and safety of Floridians. DeSantis summoned lawmakers to Tallahassee after Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, a fellow Republican and likely White House candidate, signed an executive order prohibiting anybody from mandating the Covid-19 vaccination and imposing a $1,000 fee.
In addition to vaccine-related fines, lawmakers established a $5 million war chest to fund existing and future legal battles against the Biden administration’s new vaccination requirements.
Florida is one of 26 states suing the Biden administration over its vaccination requirement for private employers. Six more states have sued the federal government over new hospital vaccine rules. According to state House Speaker Chris Sprowls, the war chest implies Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody now has the resources to contemplate pursuing Biden on that front as well.
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