‘Kids have gotten this right’: Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on vaccine mandates, school masks and more

Politics

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, one of three leading Democratic candidates vying to replace Gov. Ron DeSantis, said she disagreed with President Biden’s vaccine mandate, but would not have sued his administration.

“I don’t know if I would have sued,” Fried told 8 On Your Side. “I would have definitely had stronger conversations with the federal government, trying to find ways to work with the federal government, make sure that there was additional exemptions for small businesses, and really working with the small businesses.”

Fried said she considers the Biden Administration’s rules announced in September to be a ‘mandate’ even where they include exceptions for regular testing. She also said the decision of whether to mandate vaccines should be left up to employers, with the cost of mitigation measures dependent on how big the company is.

“If you’re talking about a tremendously large corporation, the corporation can of course deal with the overhead cost of having vaccine locations for people who want it, but also testing sites for those who don’t,” Fried said. “And if it’s a smaller company, small business, then maybe it needs to have a different policy internally inside of their own business.”

On masks in schools, Fried said it’s about protecting kids, and that they have acted more maturely than adults in many cases.

“I have 12-year-old, 10-year-old and 7-year-old stepsons; we talk about masks all the time, figuring out where they are,” Fried said. “And they’re very simple: they say I don’t want to get sick, I don’t want my friends to get sick, and so we put on a mask.”

“Kids have gotten this right,” Fried said. “This is so simple for them to understand, and them to express, and yet us adults are having wrestling matches outside of school board meetings on masks. I’ve been very clear: school boards across the entire state should have the authority to do what is best for their community, listening to their own experts. Every community is different.”

8 On Your Side also asked Fried whether it was fair to criticize the governor for ‘raising gas taxes’ when those increases were statutory.

“Well, but he also had a special session last week,” Fried replied. “If he actually had his eye on the ball, and trying to protect people and the people of our state, that’s something that should have been added to the call.”

Fried supported suspending the state gas tax, but said it should have been done much earlier.

Commissioner Fried also agreed with voters challenging Florida’s gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, saying the compact is illegal — even without sports betting — despite a carve-out in the 2018 “Voter Control of Gambling in Florida” constitutional amendment for “the state or Native American tribes to negotiate gaming compacts.”

“We the people voted for a constitutional amendment that said for us to expand gaming it has to be to the people,” Fried said. “And I do believe that this Compact is expanding gaming significantly and that it should be brought before the people before any Compact is put into place.”

The full interview with Nikki Fried will air Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. on 8 On Your Side’s weekly political show, Battleground Florida.

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