What to expect from the Florida Legislature’s special session on COVID-19 mandates
Florida lawmakers are taking part in the midst of a special session in Tallahassee aimed at blocking federal COVID-19 mandates. This includes President Joe Biden’s mandate for large corporations.
It has a lot to do with the wishes of Governor Ron DeSantis. Not all lawmakers are on board. Florida Democrats describe it as a political ploy to advance what many see as the governor’s ambitions in the White House.
Lawmakers meet to vote on several bills related to mask and vaccine mandates. Not many Democrats seem excited to return to this session and review the legislation they passed a few months ago. Nor do they seem enthusiastic about imposing more mandates on campaign donors.
“This session will not address some of the legislation that has been discussed in the past,” said Rick Mulaney, political analyst at News4Jax and chair of the University of Jacksonville’s Institute of Public Policy. “For example, there will be no legislation to ban vaccine mandates for private companies — which some have discussed. Additionally, there will be no legislation repealing the COVID-19-related civil liability protections for private companies that have been passed by the Florida legislature.
“What you will see, however, is legislation that strengthens the ban on vaccine mandates for local government and state government,” Mulaney said. “That means school boards, that means municipalities, that means counties, and that means state government.”
“You’ll also see the parental rights law that passed in the spring that will be strengthened, including perhaps a provision for attorneys’ fees and the right to sue to enforce those rights,” Mulaney continued.
“Finally, the focus of this session will probably be the legal scheme that provides exemptions and opt-outs if a vaccine mandate is actually made for private companies. So take a look at those states. That will be the gist of this session,” Mulaney said.
There are more questions than answers on the table. Business owners want to know how to determine the mandate for a vaccine and how much it will cost to provide a test to employees. These questions will be asked. But the big question remains, will there be answers?
“There is a lot of uncertainty here, and I don’t know if there are answers,” Mulaney said. “There is uncertainty because there is ongoing litigation at the federal level; the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has of course ordered President Biden to force a vaccine mandate for private companies with more than 100 employees. This is done through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and there is an injunction on that “.
Mulaney agrees with many state lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, that if Florida’s new vaccine law is passed, it will likely face legal challenges. Thus, no matter what happens in Tallahassee, “the courts may end up finding out,” according to Mulaney.
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