Florida GOP bills to limit vaccine mandates move forward

Anthony Izaguirre
Associated Press

Tallahassee, Fla. — Florida Republicans continued Tuesday to advance legislation to blunt coronavirus vaccine mandates in businesses as part of Gov. Ron DeSantis' push to combat White House virus rules.

Lawmakers in the GOP-controlled statehouse moved the measures forward after hours of debate where Republicans argued workers shouldn't lose their jobs over vaccinations and Democrats charged that the proposals endanger people.

Florida State Representatives participate in a special legislative session considering bills targeting COVID-19 vaccine mandates, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.

DeSantis, a Republican, called on lawmakers to pass the bills amid increased tension and legal battles with the administration of President Joe Biden over White House vaccine mandates. The governor has gained national prominence in the Republican party over his opposition to virus restrictions and has alleged that the federal government is overstepping its authority with its nationwide virus rules.

The legislation would, among other things, bar private businesses from having coronavirus vaccine mandates unless they allow exemptions for medical reasons, religious beliefs, proof of immunity based on a prior COVID-19 infection, regular testing and an agreement to wear protective gear. The proposals would also let parents sue schools over mask requirements and stop schools and governments in Florida from having vaccine mandates.

Republicans are also pushing legislation for Florida to begin considering a withdrawal from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which drafted White House vaccine requirements for businesses with more than 100 employees. Another measure would block the public release of records regarding state investigations of vaccine policies in businesses.

The bills are expected to win final passage this week.

Separately, Florida has sued the White House over rules requiring coronavirus vaccines for federal contractors and private businesses.