‘We need to provide protections:’ DeSantis announces special session to combat vaccine mandates

Special session to be held in November

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday announced that the Florida legislature would return for a special session to combat vaccine mandates and protect jobs as the federal government prepares to release an executive order requiring vaccinations.

DeSantis had previously said the state would “contest (the federal mandate) immediately,” but officially announced the special session, set for November, at a news conference in Clearwater, saying, “We have got to stand up for people’s jobs and their livelihoods.”

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“We’re also going to be taking legislative action to add protections for people in the state of Florida and that’s something that cannot wait until the regular legislative session next year. It needs to happen soon, and so we will be calling the legislature back for a special session,” he said.

DeSantis said during the last legislative session, action was taken against vaccine passports to not have people’s freedoms “based on showing papers.”

“Now you have these aggressive potential mandates, which could potentially lead to many people losing their jobs. Some have already been been terminated, and we need to provide protections,” DeSantis said.

One of the speakers joining DeSantis for the news conference was former Orange County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Stephen Davis, who was fired earlier this week after failing to follow a direct order over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. County officials said he was fired over his refusal in early October to issue disciplinary action over vaccine verifications.

He said many people were worried over the vaccine mandate and some were told if they did not get vaccinated by a certain date, they would be terminated.

When he was given a list of people to whom he should issue written reprimands over the COVID-19 vaccine, Davis said he raised concerns over the list because it did not distinguish whether the people received the vaccine or had an exemption when he had “personal conversations with several who said they had the vaccination.”

”And yet, I was ordered to give them reprimands. To me, this violated more than just a law, this violated their own civil rights,” he said, adding that he was brought in and relieved of his duty that same evening.

Davis said a friend of his gathered all the information and brought it forward when he was “challenged the very next day.”

“It was that next day that they stopped all the written reprimands. They pulled them all back. They said, ‘Do not issue until we figure this out.’ A week later, I was terminated for exactly what I told him. I tried to warn them,” he said.

In broad terms, DeSantis outlined policy goals for the special session, including holding businesses liable for adverse reactions to vaccines, removing legal liability protections for employers with vaccine mandates and added protections for people fired for not being vaccinated.

“At the end of the day, you shouldn’t be discriminated against based on your health decisions,” he said during a news conference. “We want to provide protection for people, we want to make it clear that, in Florida, your right to earn a living is not contingent upon whatever choices you’re making in terms of these injections.”

DeSantis said protections can be provided at the state level for corporations and in government agencies, but the special session would help address protections against federal mandates for contracted workers in the state.

“So if we can get legal redress where we can get that enjoin, then we’re going to be able to have all those jobs saved, but I think it’s going to require both,” he said. “Because I think if a hospital, for example, is told that Florida wants to protect the nurses, but that the federal government wants to force the injections, then the question is, ‘Are they going to risk all their Medicare and Medicaid funding over that?’”

The news conference comes a day after DeSantis visited Brevard County, reiterating his support to parents, specifically over school mask mandates, after the federal government said it would investigate “threats of violence” against educators. At the Titusville news conference, Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey joined the governor, saying his deputies will not enforce school mask mandates, adding that “we are not the mask police.”

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.