Florida special legislative session to address vaccine mandates this week

Political analyst breaks down bills

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – When Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature kicks off its special session Monday, lawmakers will consider several bills aimed at banning vaccine mandates and empowering parents to challenge vaccine and mask mandates in schools.

“We’re going to be saving a lot of jobs in the state of Florida,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference last week. “We’re going to be striking a blow for freedom. We’re going to be standing up against the Biden mandates. And we’re going to be better as a result of it.”

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Despite objections to the bills from Democratic lawmakers, News 6 political analyst and UCF history professor Jim Clark believes the measures will likely pass easily with few alterations or additions.

“The governor has made clear what he wants,” Clark said. “I think everything has been worked out. I don’t think the leadership is going to allow any changes unless the leadership and the governor want any changes.”

The bills under consideration as the special session begins include:

HB 1/SB 2-B

  • Government employers would be prohibited from imposing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate
  • Private employers would be prohibited from imposing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate without providing individual exemptions including:
    • Medical (including pregnancy)
    • Religious
    • Immunity from a prior COVID-19 infection
    • Periodic testing
    • Employer-provided personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Private employers with fewer than 100 employees could be fined $10,000 and employers with 100 or more employees could be fined $50,000 if the Florida Attorney General finds that an employee was improperly terminated
  • Employees terminated for noncompliance with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate would be eligible for unemployment assistance
  • Public schools would be prohibited from imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates and mask mandates for students
  • Public schools would be prohibited from requiring asymptomatic students to quarantine if the student has not received a positive COVID-19 test
  • Parents would be authorized to bring an action against the school district seeking injunctive relief
  • Approved provisions would expire June 1, 2023

HB 7-B/SB 8-B

  • Strike language from an existing law that currently gives the State Health Officer authority to mandate vaccinations during a public health emergency

SB 4-B/HB 3-B

  • Create exemptions to Florida’s public records law making an employee’s medical and religious information confidential in investigative reports related to vaccine mandate complaints

HB 5-B/SB 6-B

  • $1 million dollars would be appropriated to the Executive Office of the Governor to develop a proposal for a state plan to assert state jurisdiction over occupational and safety issues for government and private employees

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades. Mike joined News 6 just as Florida officials began counting hanging chads in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. Since then, he has covered some of the biggest news events in Central Florida.