A special session begins Monday for Florida lawmakers and 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.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he wants legislation 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 when calling for the special session.
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.
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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.
On November 2nd, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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.
Florida lawmakers will also focus on stopping employee vaccine mandates from the federal government.
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 Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements called 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 November 6th 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 has 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 in a statement.
The president of the Republican-led State Senate, Wilton Simpson, told NBC 6 he’s vaccinated by his own choice.
“We are here to protect workers, so big businesses can take care of themselves and when you see this, we are giving those big businesses options short of vaccinations,” Simpson said. “We do not want in the state of Florida a mandate, and I believe it’s unconstitutional to vaccinate your workers.”
Protestors in Tallahassee are expected to be loud in their opposition to the governor’s proposal on Monday.