The upcoming special session for Florida lawmakers will focus on preventing COVID-19 vaccine mandates by businesses and on strengthening the state's Parents Bill of Rights law to stop mask and vaccine mandates for students, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday.
Speaking at a news conference in Zephyrhills, DeSantis said there will be legislation at the Nov. 15 special session to prevent vaccinations being mandatory for school children.
"When it comes to Covid vaccines for kids, they cannot be mandated on our school children," DeSantis said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended the vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, at least 94 children ages 5 to 11 have died from COVID-19, more than 8,300 have been hospitalized and more than 5,000 have developed a serious inflammatory condition linked to the virus.
DeSantis also said lawmakers will be working to strengthen the Parents Bill of Rights that was passed earlier this year and bans Florida school districts for requiring masks without a parent opt-out.
At least two Florida school districts, including Broward County, have ignored the law, and have seen funding withheld from the state's Department of Education as a result.
"We're making clear that you can't force the kids to wear masks above the parents' objection, and if you do that, it's not gonna be the Department of Education taking the salaries, and all this Kabuki that's been going on, parents will have a right to go in and sue the school districts and recover costs and attorney fees for having to do it," DeSantis said. "I guarantee you with having that type of teeth in the Parents Bill of Rights, you're gonna have everyone get in line."
DeSantis and the Biden administration have a near constant back and forth about the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with DeSantis saying the president is overstepping his authority by trying to force large businesses and government contractors to require vaccinations.
The Republican governor reiterated Monday that the special session will be working on stopping employee vaccine mandates from the federal government.
"This will be probably the strongest protections for both private and public sector employees anywhere in the country," DeSantis said. "We're gonna do something in this special session that matters, we're gonna do something in this special session that is gonna put peoples' minds at ease."
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements released Thursday call for companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or be tested weekly. Failure to comply could result in penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation. Federal officials also left open the possibility of expanding the mandate to smaller employers.
A federal appeals court on Saturday temporarily halted the Biden administration's vaccine requirement for businesses with 100 or more workers.
A separate mandate requires vaccines for employees who work for federal contractors.
Biden last week framed the issue as a simple choice between getting more people vaccinated or prolonging the pandemic.
“While I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good,” he said Thursday in a statement.
DeSantis said Florida will be working to stop the mandates and protect peoples' jobs.
"We've gotta stop bossing people around, we've gotta stop the coercion, we've gotta stop trying to browbeat people," DeSantis said. "We're gonna be striking a blow for freedom, we're gonna be standing up against the Biden mandates."
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