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DeSantis signs COVID-related bills passed during special session

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Gov. Ron DeSantis signed four COVID-19-related measures that were passed by Florida state lawmakers during their legislative special session which began on Nov. 15. All four bills were filed in response to the Biden Administration’s federal vaccine mandates that, among other things, require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 6 or risk losing their jobs.

“I didn’t think we had time to waste,” DeSantis said before he signed the bills during a Nov. 18 press conference in Brandon, Fla. “You could have thousands and thousands of people lose their jobs by (the beginning of the regular legislative session) – the last thing I wanted to see was these families in Florida over the holidays not knowing if they were going to have a job – Now we have protections.”

The bills signed into law are –

HB 1B/SB 2B prohibits COVID-19 vaccination mandates for employees in government and public education and protects parental choice on masks, vaccines and quarantine.

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The legislation specifically prohibits private-sector employers from having a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for employees without providing at least five individual exemptions.  Those five exemptions listed in the bill are medical (including pregnancy or anticipated pregnancy), religious, proof of acquired immunity, agreement to periodic COVID-19 testing at no cost to the employee, or agreement to wear employer-provided personal protective equipment (PPE).

HB 3B/SB 4B exempts from public records personal and religious information contained in files created during an investigation of an employer who refuses to provide individual exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination requirements. Rep. Ralph E Massullo (R-Beverly Hills) sponsored HB 3B.

HB 5B/SB 6B directs the Executive Office of the Governor to review options for the State of Florida to take responsibility for workers’ occupational safety and health issues here.

The measure represents the first step toward developing a proposal that would withdraw Florida from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

HB 7B/SB 8B which repeals the state Surgeon General’s authority to mandate vaccinations.

Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) said the measures’ passage represents a strong response to federal COVID-19-related mandates.

“Florida respects the dignity of work, the responsibility to parent, and the right to live in freedom,” Simpson said.

The regular session of the 2022 Florida Legislature begins on Jan. 11.

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