Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has just signed a quartet of bills that helps to protect employees in the Sunshine State from termination should they refuse the COVID-19 vaccine. The new laws create restrictions on vaccine mandates by employers. He signed the bills into law while standing at a car dealership in Brandon, Florida, citing Florida residents’ “right to earn a living.”
“We’re making sure that people have a right to earn a living,” DeSantis said. “We are respecting people’s individual freedom in this state.”
Governor DeSantis (R) sees the passing of the new laws as a political victory. But even though the laws are now in place, they aren’t quite what DeSantis had originally wanted. He had pushed Florida lawmakers for more protection and received backing from supporters who testified during committee hearings.
DeSantis called a special session during which to pass the bills. That move has been met with criticism from Democrats who call the session “political theater” and feel it was done to boost DeSantis’s efforts toward re-election in 2022. They also feel that DeSantis’s decision to call the special session and pass the bills into law is also an attempt on the part of the Florida governor to prop him up for a possible 2024 Presidential run.
The main part of the four-part law, called HB1B, strikes down vaccine mandates on employees by any local government entity in Florida. Private businesses are not wholly exempt from the reach of the bill, as it requires that even those employers to include exemption status for employees who refuse the vaccine because of religious or medical reasons. Under the new law, employees in Florida who have previously contracted COVID-19 are also exempt from vaccine mandates, as are those employees who agree to, and comply with, routine testing for the virus and also wear personal protective equipment (i.e., masks, face coverings, etc.).
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“No nurse, no firefighter, no police officer, no trucker–no anybody–should lose their job because of these COVID jabs,” DeSantis said just before signing the bills into law this morning, referring to vaccinations as “jabs,” as he has been doing lately.
Disney mandated vaccines for its executive employees toward the end of the summer and then struck a deal with unionized Cast Members who work at the Walt Disney World Resort that would require those hourly workers to be fully vaccinated by October 22 or face the possibility of termination. Because Disney is a private employer–the largest in the Sunshine State, too–the law doesn’t change much for the entertainment giant.
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But Florida HB1B does now make it a legal requirement for Disney and other private employers in Florida to allow for push-back from employees who cite religious reasons and/or medical inability to receive the vaccine as their reasons for refusing to have the–as DeSantis calls it–“jab.”
The new law was passed with seemingly little consideration for the fact that more than 60,000 Floridians have died from novel coronavirus infections since the pandemic began in early 2020. At this time, nearly 61% of Florida residents are fully vaccinated.