Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling for a special session of the Florida legislature to ban any federal mandates that force employees in the state to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to keep their job.
"We need to take action to protect Florida jobs. And we have a situation now unfortunately in our country where we have a federal government that is very much trying to use the heavy hand of government to force a lot of these injections," DeSantis said at a news conference in Clearwater Thursday. "You have a lot of folks that actually believe that that decision should be theirs and that we believe in having basic medical freedom and individual choice and that your right to earn a living should not be contingent upon Covid shots."
The Biden’s administration wants a mandate that employers with 100 or more workers require coronavirus vaccinations or institute weekly virus testing. Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration finalized the initial draft of the emergency order and sent it to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.
DeSantis said the state plans to fight that mandate in court, but said he wants a special session in November to take legislative action, saying it's "something that cannot wait."
"When we were doing the last legislative session it would never have occurred to me that we would be in the situation that we are with some of the insanity that's raining down right now," DeSantis said. "We took very strong action against things like vaccine passports, that was the right decision to do."
Florida's "vaccine passport" law, which prohibits businesses and governments from requiring people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, took effect last month. It can result in a $5,000 fine per violation, but is being challenged in court.
Earlier this month, the Florida Department of Health issued a $3.5 million fine for Leon County for violating the law and firing 14 workers who didn't get vaccinated or show proof of vaccination.
DeSantis said thousands of Floridians' jobs could potentially be at risk.
"There's also mandates that potentially could have devastating effects on the state of Florida, one is a federal contractor mandate. Anybody that contracts with the federal government, they're imposing this mandate and that is already putting thousands and thousands of jobs in jeopardy," DeSantis said. "If you think about it, we have a lot of contractors in the state of Florida that help defense and space and all these key things, a lot of great employees, a lot of great Floridians are working in these things and yet they're now facing getting kicked to the curb."
Florida Democrats quickly reacted to the governor’s plan, announcing that members of the House Democratic Caucus will hold a Zoom press conference Monday to discuss.
NBC 6 asked Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava about the possibility to pass legislation against mandates.
"What we’re doing here is working. We’re bringing down our positivity, we’re bringing down our hospitalization, we need to just keep on doing what we’re doing," Levine-Cava said.
Levine-Cava and chamber members were in Wynwood Thursday to call on small businesses to encourage their employees to get vaccinated and keep a safe workspace through the “We did it,” voluntary pledge program.
"We are a county of small businesses, we know that the federal mandate is going to address businesses of over 100 employees, that’s only about 3% of the total businesses in the county," she said.
The "We did it" pledge encourages the nearly 90,000 businesses in Miami-Dade to set a precedent that promotes health and safety for patrons and staff.
"We did not mandate vaccines, we told employees that we would like them to be vaccinated and if not, they need to test because that’s the way they’ll be safe and they know their coworkers will be safe,” said Levine-Cava.
Sign up for our Breaking newsletter to get the most urgent news stories in your inbox.