TALLAHASSEE (Florida Information Service)
Democrats on Tuesday voiced opposition to a special session ordered by Governor Ron DeSantis to push back demands that workers be vaccinated against COVID-19.
DeSantis, who has fought several times with the White House over COVID-19 warrants, announced on Friday that the special session would be held the week of November 15-19. Although the bills have not been tabled, Senatorial Minority Leader Lauren Book, D -Plantation, said Tuesday after a meeting of Senate Democrats that DeSantis’ priorities are “not necessarily what the Floridians need us to focus “.
“I think we have to make sure that people are healthy and safe, that they can go to work and that our economy is booming, and that businesses are able to do what they need to do,” Book said.
The Democratic Senate caucus has not taken a formal position while waiting for proposals to be brought forward by Republican House and Senate leaders.
In its call to the session, DeSantis called for legislation to protect “current and potential” workers from COVID-19 vaccination status; ensure that people who are refused employment because of their immunization status are entitled to unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation; limit the mandates of school districts and extend a so-called “Parents Bill of Rights” law approved this spring; and repeal a 2002 law giving the state surgeon general power to order injections or vaccinations.
DeSantis is also asking for “sufficient” funds to investigate and prosecute vaccination warrants, including against the federal government. And he wants lawmakers to use the session to assess whether the state should “assert jurisdiction over matters of occupational safety and health for government and private employees.”
“Creating a new OSHA-like entity in the state when it already exists within the federal government seems a little counterintuitive from an entity that really wants less government, doesn’t it? Book says. “Republicans generally want less government. It seems to be more regulated than what exists now. So, we can’t wait to see what they will come up with.
On the call for the special session, however, DeSantis canceled the option to remove COVID-19 liability protections for companies with vaccination mandates and did not call for a ban on employee mandates from the private sector.
Also on Tuesday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for governor in 2022, said the state should examine how nearly 25,000 Floridians have died from COVID-19 since vaccinations became widely available , rather than a “fabricated crisis” of federally mandated vaccinations.
“Where was the call for a special session when the Piney Point disaster and a subsequent red tide crisis in our waters threatened our environment, our economy and our public health? Fried told reporters, referring to this year’s problems at the former Piney Point phosphate plant in Manatee County that led to the release of large amounts of contaminated water. “Where was the call for a special session when the Surfside (condo) collapse claimed the lives of almost 100?” Where was the call for a special session when Florida led the nation in COVID cases? Where was the call for a special session as Florida hospitals approached or were at full capacity, with 17,000 COVID patients, nearly double the peak California has seen with double the population?
Fried said lawmakers should seek to prevent another deadly wave of COVID-19, inequalities in vaccine distribution, problems with the unemployment system and how federal aid has been spent.
Minority House Leader Evan Jenne D-Dania Beach said on Monday he expects the governor’s demands to be reduced, including the occupational safety and health proposal.
“From what I’ve heard, I have a feeling that some business entities that may be quite important to the people in this building said, ‘Hey, we don’t like what you’re doing here’ ‘, Jenne told reporters. . “I think you’re going to see it cut down a bit. I know some of my colleagues here in the House and Senate have mentioned trying to create their own OSHA because of COVID. I have news for you, this process will take years and years to complete. It will be a massive, massive expansion of government, of Florida state government. “
“The simple fact that it will take years to accomplish this shows that it really has nothing to do with COVID,” Jenne continued. “It has more to do with trying to score political points on the national stage, which seems to be what everyone is interested in these days.”
In a joint statement released after DeSantis set the dates for the session, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, and Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said they looked forward to work with the governor to develop legislation against “unconstitutional, anti-American and morally objectionable excesses” by the federal government.
“Over the past two years, Floridians have seen the freedoms of our friends and relatives in other states taken one by one,” legislative leaders said Friday. “We will not stand idly by as the Biden administration imposes an illegal and unconstitutional nationwide vaccine mandate that robs the American people of the dignity of work.”