TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Lawmakers are quickly moving through the special session in Tallahassee. They already advanced several bills to push back against President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates in an effort to protect freedom of choice for not only Tampa Bay residents but everyone around the state.
The session is scheduled to end Friday, however, lawmakers are speeding through the agenda with a vote scheduled for Wednesday.
“I was the 2019 Florida State Firefighter of the year two years ago, and now since August, I’m fighting for my job,” said Jason Wheat, an Orange County firefighter.
Several dozen Central Florida firefighters, including Wheat, rallied outside the state capitol in Tallahassee on Monday supporting the ban on vaccine mandates saying it should be a personal choice.
Most worked through the pandemic and now believe they are getting kicked to the curb if they don’t get the vaccine shot.
For lawmakers in the state capitol, the regular session begins in January, however, Governor Ron DeSantis called this special session now saying the need to fight the vaccine mandates and COVID-19 regulations is too important to wait.
According to Gov. DeSantis’s website, he’s calling on the legislature to consider legislation that will:
- Protect current and prospective employees against unfair discrimination on the basis of COVID-19 vaccination status and ensure robust enforcement for this protection;
- Ensure that educational institutions and government entities are prohibited from unfairly discriminating against current and prospective employees, students, and residents on the basis of COVID-19 vaccination status;
- Ensure that employees improperly denied employment on the basis of COVID-19 vaccination status can be eligible for reemployment benefits and, if needed, ensure that employees injured by a COVID-19 vaccination taken pursuant to a company policy are covered by workers’ compensation;
- Appropriate a sufficient amount of funds to investigate complaints regarding COVID-19 vaccination mandates and to take legal action against such mandates, including mandates imposed by the Federal Government;
- Clarify that the Parents’ Bill of Rights, Chapter 1014, Florida Statutes, vests the decision on masking with parents, not government entities, and that schools must comply with Department of Health rules that govern student health, including rules that ensure healthy students can remain in school;
- Limit mandates by school districts on students or employees regarding COVID-19 and related mitigation measures;
- Provide adequate enforcement mechanisms to ensure that Florida law is followed and the rights of parents are honored;
- Direct the State to evaluate whether it should assert jurisdiction over occupational safety and health issues for government and private employees;
- Repeal the authority for the State Health Officer to order forced injections or vaccinations under Section 381.00315, Florida Statutes, originally enacted in 2002; and
- Create as necessary public records exemptions related to complaints and investigations described herein.
Senator Janet Cruz calls the session political and a waste of time and money.
“I really, honestly don’t understand why people would walk around unprotected,” Cruz said.
However, GOP House Speaker Chris Sprowls disagrees.
“Can someone have a religious exemption, can that be possible? Yes. Should someone have a medical exemption or testing, or if they just go covid last week, should they have to be vaccinated this week? Does that make sense?” Sprowls said.
If the bill passes, Capitol News Desk’s Jake Stofan says $6 million will go towards enforcing a mandate ban and creating a new statewide occupational safety agency.
Day two of the five-day special session continues Tuesday and could wrap up early if they vote Wednesday.