Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week called for a special legislative session next month to pass legislation to ban the COVID-19 vaccine mandates announced by the White House last month.
Legislative leaders said they might use the session to pull away from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA), which has worked on rules to require vaccinations for many workers across the country.
Democrats criticized DeSantis over his call for a special session, noting that the state’s economic rebound was bolstered by companies like Disney, which requires employees to be vaccinated.
Democrats also described DeSantis’ requested legislation as “anti-business,” “big government,” “soft on COVID,” and “premature,” since some potential vaccination mandates are still being crafted.
The governor’s office released a list of requests for the special session that includes allowing people fired for refusing employer-required COVID-19 vaccinations to be eligible for unemployment compensation; seeking to “reaffirm” that government entities, including school districts, can’t fire employees based upon their vaccine status; and removing COVID-19 liability protections for businesses that fire employees based on vaccination requirements.
DeSantis also wants to allow fired workers to sue employers that fail to provide notice of religious and health exemptions to vaccination requirements; prevent businesses from enforcing “non-compete” agreements against employees fired for their COVID-19 status; and expand parental rights in school health-care decisions.
“Yet again, Gov. DeSantis is troublingly more focused on scoring political points with his base than on the health and safety of Florida,” Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said. “At every turn throughout the pandemic, the governor has rejected science, further endangering the lives of hardworking people across the state. Florida deserves leadership that will promote truth and facts, not more reckless politics with human lives on the line.”
Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, in a conference call with other House Democrats, said DeSantis is competing with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as they eye the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
“They have been trying to out-compete each other at this race to the bottom from issues ranging from immigration to masks to vaccines to abortion,” Eskamani said.
In September, the White House directed OSHA to write rules that would require employers with 100 or more workers to vaccinate their staff members against COVID-19 or test those who aren’t vaccinated at least once a week.