Central Florida lawmakers react: DeSantis calls special session to fight vaccine mandates

Special session will be held in November

Governor Ron DeSantis is taking his attempt to ban vaccine mandates in Florida to a special session with state lawmakers in November.

DeSantis announced the Florida legislature’s special session at a news conference in Clearwater Thursday.

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DeSantis plans to contest vaccine mandates as the federal government prepares an executive order requiring vaccinations for any business with more than 100 employees. Central Florida lawmakers are responding to the governor’s effort.

The Florida legislature, per the state’s constitution, typically meets 60 consecutive days per year, starting in January or March.

“An extension of regular session or special session requires a three-fifths vote of each house,” Florida’s constitution reads.

Below are the responses from Central Florida lawmakers on DeSantis’s special session announcement, in no particular order.

(Don’t see your local lawmaker’s response below? Click these links to find your local lawmakers in the Florida House and Senate.)

Rep. Anna Eskamani (D)

“DeSantis is taking us in a dangerous direction….as he has every intention to drag out this pandemic as (long as) possible (so he has a contrast when he runs against Biden for Presidential election),” Rep. Anna Eskamani added during an emergency media session, held via zoom shortly after the announcement.

Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R)

Rep. Anthony Sabatini told News 6 that DeSantis was doing the right thing for Americans by standing up for personal freedoms.

“This is excellent news, amazing news. long overdue, but I thank the governor for his leadership,” he said.

Earlier this year Sabatini filed a bill which, if enacted, would make mask mandates illegal in the state of Florida.

State Sen. Linda Stewart (D)

Sen. Linda Stewart added, “It’s ridiculous.”

She told News 6 she is for mask mandates.

“(The special session) may not even happen. We are waiting to find out if it will, and I am watching this closely,” Stewart continued.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D)
Rep. Kristen Arrington (D)

The memorandum, included in Rep. Kristen Arrington’s tweet above, circulated to members of the state’s House of Representatives Thursday.

Rep. David Smith (R) said because all he received was a memorandum, it would be premature to comment on the special session.

U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack (R)
State Sen. Keith Perry (R)
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D)
State Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil (D)

Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil told News 6, “In what is an attack on Florida’s private businesses and local leaders who’ve taken steps to protect Floridians, the Governor’s threatening of a special session is a tactic that is dangerous to public health as it is costly to our State’s taxpayers. I’m determined to fight against this in the Legislature to protect the freedom businesses have to safeguard our residents. I will continue to stand up for the values, principles and policies that ensure Floridians can live freely and safely at all times.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R)

In an interview with News 6, Rep. Randy Fine (R) said he was “thrilled” when he heard about the special session. Fine supports vaccines, but he does not support mandates. He added the Brevard County School Board is committing “child abuse,” referring to their mask mandate, with a parental opt-out option if community spread dips to 50 cases per 100,000.

State Sen. Victor Torres (D) replied to News 6 via email:

“During the peak of the pandemic last year, the Governor refuse to call a special session to address the health impact and the unemployment issues that Floridians were dealing with. The Governor also refuse to initiate a state-wide face coving requirement, claiming that local governments know what was best for their communities. Now the Governor wants to call a special session to block the rights of individual business and local communities, from protecting the health of their employees and the general public.”

Rep. Kamia Brown (D), who represents part of Orange County, said in a statement, “Floridians are tired of political stunts winning over public safety. We all want the freedom to be safe and prosperous, which starts by returning to our daily lives. This shameful idea to prolong the pandemic only threatens public health and economic prosperity.”

Florida Senate Majority Leader Debbie Mayfield (R) released the following statement:

“I have heard from many constituents who are concerned that their abilities to provide for their families and make health care decisions for themselves are being threatened by the Biden Administration’s sweeping COVID-19 mandates. I look forward to working alongside President Wilton Simpson and Governor Ron DeSantis to preserve our individual rights and safeguard Floridians from the federal government’s overreach.”

News 6 has reached out to all local senators and representatives for comment.

This is a developing story. Check back here for updates.

About the Authors:

Award-winning investigative reporter Merris Badcock joined the News 6 team in October 2020. Merris is the recipient of a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, a Suncoast Regional Emmy Award, four Suncoast Emmy Regional nominations, and two first-place Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists’ Awards.

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.