OUR POSITION: We’re not sure the just completed special session of the Florida Legislature accomplished anything other than keep Gov. Ron DeSantis in the national spotlight.
So, Florida’s lawmakers made their way to Tallahassee this past week for an “emergency” special session called by Gov. Ron DeSantis and funded by taxpayers.
It was urgent he said that they pass laws to fend off a bid by Democrats to require businesses to mandate vaccinations for their employees. Of course, no one bothered to mention they could have waited two months to do the same thing, especially considering it might take two to three years to get the new laws through the courts.
The whole event appeared to be little more than an opportunity for DeSantis to show he is more than willing to take on the Democrats in Washington. But, we already knew that.
When the week ended, these are the new laws legislators, along almost unanimous party line votes, passed:
• Restrict businesses’ ability to mandate vaccines for employees. Companies must offer workers a number of exemptions or risk fines of $10,000 per violation from the state.
• Ban school districts from passing mask mandates and prohibit governments from enacting vaccine requirements for public sector employees.
• Create a public records exemption to conceal from public view investigations by the attorney general’s office into violations of the law restricting vaccine mandates. The investigations could become public once they are closed, with the exception of a person’s medical or religious information.
• Direct DeSantis to form a plan for the state to eventually create a new agency to replace the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration in monitoring workplace safety.
We’re not sure we need another exemption for records that should be public. We don’t believe the state should dictate to local school boards or city councils or county commissions how they handle the virus outbreak considering the infection rates can vary wildly from county to county.
The biggest claim from DeSantis and Republicans we keep hearing is that this special session and these new laws will save jobs.
If that’s true, it would be rare. The national laws DeSantis is fighting call for companies with more than 100 employees to require they get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. Nowhere does it say anything about losing your job.
If an employee does not want to get vaccinated, they just have to swab their mouth once a week. No big deal. If an employee doesn’t want to do that, then they could possibly lose their job, but that is their choice.
The “saving jobs” cry from Republicans sounds good, but it is little more than a justification for the special session.
All of this grandstanding might be for naught if the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati — where Trump-appointed judges sit — rule in the next few days against the Democrats and upholds a suit filed by states, including Florida, to overturn the Occupational and Safety and Health Administration mandates for vaccinating employees.
A win there for Republicans would likely end all the controversy, but still give Florida a window to pull away from OSHA and start its own state agency to oversee the health and safety of employees here. That is another DeSantis goal that could take years to work out.
By that time, DeSantis could be sitting in the White House.