Florida lawmakers pass plan to block vaccine mandates

Florida lawmakers pass plan to block vaccine mandates

I miss — A rebuke to the Biden administration, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature on Wednesday passed a measure seeking to prevent workers from being required to vaccinate against COVID-19.

The House and Senate votes came on the third day of a special legislative session called by Governor Ron DeSantis, who has for months wrangling with the White House over COVID-19 policies. But the outcome of the vote was never in doubt – Republican leaders approved the bill (HB 1B) before the session began and isolated it from any changes.

“We trust the people of Florida to make the best decision for themselves and their children, more than we trust the federal government,” Representative Joe Harding, R. Williston, said before the House voted 78 to 39 along near-straight party lines to pass. Bill.

Democrats have criticized the bill – and the decision to hold a special session – as a political ploy by Republicans and said it will not help curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We’ve been here all week discussing this in a way that only prolongs this pandemic and makes it harder for us to get shots in guns and dollars in people’s pockets, so we can move on with our lives,” the MP. Andrew Learn said Dr-Brandon.

Several hours after the House passed the bill on Wednesday, the Senate voted 24 to 14 on partisan lines to give final approval.

The special session was prompted, at least in part, by the Biden administration’s moves aimed at requiring workers in large corporations, federal contractors, and in the health care industry to be vaccinated.

Under the bill, private sector workers in Florida can avoid vaccination requirements if they provide medical or religious reasons or can demonstrate “immunity to COVID-19.” Also, they can be exempted if they agree to regular COVID-19 testing or agree to wear personal protective equipment.

Employers may face fines of up to $50,000 per violation if they do not follow the law properly.

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The legislation would also prevent government agencies from requiring workers to be vaccinated. In addition, it strengthens the law known as the “Parental Rights Charter” to ban student masks and vaccination requirements in public schools.

The school portion of the bill came after months of legal fighting between the state and some school districts that required students to wear masks. Those districts have dropped mask requirements recently as COVID-19 cases are declining, and provinces have not enforced vaccination mandates.

Representative Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, argued that preventing schools from being able to enforce COVID-19 mitigation measures would exacerbate the state’s teacher shortage.

“Are we putting teachers at risk? And I’m worried we have a teacher shortage. We have people retiring early. We have a shortage of people who won’t drive our school buses because they are in that closed environment with young people who don’t have to wear masks, they don’t have to be vaccinated,” Thompson said. “.

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But Representative Mike Caruso, R of Delray Beach, defended the ban on school mask requirements.

“I sit there and ask our school boards about imposing masks on our children,” Caruso said. “They say, OK, physically, it will protect them from[the virus],” when they fail to recognize the mental health problems caused by the masks. “

The only Democrat who voted for the bill was Rep. James Bush, Democrat of Miami, and the measure sparked intense party strife at times.

At one point, Representative Anthony Sabatini, Republican of Howie in the Hills, called President Joe Biden a “tyrant” and urged the “repeal” of federal laws, to the derision of Democrats. Representative Brian Avila, a Miami Springs Republican who was the Speaker of the House at the time, directed House members not to make comments about Biden or DeSantis.

During a press conference later, House Democrats said the hearing was more about the political ambitions of DeSantis, who is widely seen as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, than about the more than 60,000 deaths in Florida from COVID-19.

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“The circus has rolled up its tents and is going home,” said Evan Jean, co-leader of House Minority, at D-Dania Beach. The special session to promote a presidential campaign has ended. But the damage to public health will continue for a generation and lead to untold death and suffering.”

Florida, states and other companies have filed challenges in federal court against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule that aims to require tens of millions of workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested regularly and wear masks. The rule was suspended after an order from the Fifth US Court of Appeals, which hears cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The order did not solve the underlying legal issues in the appeals.

“While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergency situations, OSHA has suspended activities related to implementation and enforcement of (the rule) pending future developments in litigation,” the agency’s website said on Wednesday.

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Separate federal rules are designed to require the vaccination of employees of federal contractors, hospital staff, nursing homes, and other health care providers who participate in Medicaid and Medicare. Florida has also filed a legal challenge against the federal contractor rule.

Republicans said Wednesday that Florida citizens will lose their jobs due to federal guidance. They said people should be free to make decisions about vaccination.

“It is amazing most days to think that it is an acceptable situation for someone else to make the health care decision about whether or not to vaccinate, and that the employer will be able to make a decision about health care,” said Erin Grahl, R-Vero Beach, co-sponsor of Parliament bill.

Senate sponsor Danny Burgess said the bill would “help Florida get back to normal.”

“No one should lose their job because of the vaccine mandate,” Burgess said.

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But Representative Amari Hardy, D-West Palm Beach, opposed the Republicans’ arguments.

“You want to put cancer patients at risk, you want to put people with diabetes at risk, you want to put young children who haven’t yet been vaccinated, and you want to put all people at risk because you don’t, I don’t want to get a chance,” Hardy said. A five-year-old is braver than that.” “This is not about freedom. It’s about responsibility.”

— News Service writers Ryan Dailey and Jim Turner contributed to this story.

© 2021 Florida News Service. All rights reserved.

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