ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday laid out his priorities during this month’s special session, saying Florida lawmakers will address the Biden administration’s requirement for businesses with 100 or more employees to have a COVID-19 vaccination mandate, as well as strengthen the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which was signed into law earlier this year, according to WPLG-TV.
The Biden administration has ordered large companies to order their employees to be vaccinated by Jan. 4. If employees refuse, they will be subjected to mask requirements and weekly tests.
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In many cases, employees have already been terminated from their jobs due to refusing to comply with vaccination mandates.
DeSantis called the mandate “unconstitutional” and said it was the state’s responsibility “to stand up to the Biden administration,” as well as big corporations.
The governor is now calling on Florida lawmakers to make it unlawful to fire employees who refuse to be vaccinated.
He said he expects Florida to soon have the strongest protections for both private and public sector employees in the entire nation.
“From the very beginning, we said, ‘Let’s stop putting people down. Let’s lift people up,’” DeSantis said during a news conference in Zephyrhills.
The governor said strengthening the Parents’ Bill of Rights will also be a priority during the special session.
DeSantis has long maintained that it should be up to parents to decide whether their children should wear masks to school or receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Florida Department of Education has withheld school board members’ salaries from school districts that have refused to comply with the state’s order.
The governor said he is seeking to strengthen the law so that parents will be able to sue school districts that fail to follow the state’s order on mandates and allow parents to seek reimbursement for their attorney fees from the school districts.
DeSantis’ announcement comes days after a judge dismissed a case from several school districts challenging the state’s rule on school mask mandates.
On Friday, Administrative Judge Brian A. Newman rejected the case from Miami-Dade, Leon, Duval, Orange, Broward and Alachua counties.
It found the DeSantis administration was within its authority to impose the rule.
In addition, DeSantis acknowledged Monday at the Zephyrhills news conference that he has officially filed to run for re-election.
“We were going to put something out a little bit later, so just stay tuned,” DeSantis said. “It’s more of a formality, you know, to open up a campaign committee (by filing paperwork). We’re not going to be doing really anything in terms of public announcements until after the legislative session, but, you got to prepare for these things.”
Former Florida governor and now U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, both Democrats, are among 15 candidates looking to unseat DeSantis next year.
DeSantis has also been linked to a presidential run in 2024 but has dismissed the notion, saying he’s focused on Florida.