Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Thursday he will call a special session of the Florida legislature to vote on banning private companies from enacting vaccine mandates, as part of a plan to take even stronger action against public Covid restrictions, in a state already known for its aggressive stance.
- DeSantis issued a “vaccine passport” ban by executive order in April, which prohibits businesses from requiring customers to show proof of Covid vaccination, but it’s unclear whether the order also prohibits vaccine mandates for workers.
- The governor said he hopes to hold the special session in November, but Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) said in a memorandum after DeSantis’ news conference on Thursday that he hasn’t received any dates for the proposed session.
- DeSantis also said he wants lawmakers to strengthen the Parents Bill of Rights—a law that largely prohibits mandatory Covid restrictions in schools—by adding a provision that assures parents can collect attorney’s fees if they win a case against a school district over illegal Covid restrictions.
“If anyone has been forced to do an injection and has an adverse reaction, that business should be liable,” DeSantis said.
The special session call from DeSantis comes just days after a similar GOP-led endeavor failed in Texas. The state Senate there ultimately did not vote on a vaccine mandate ban after it became clear it did not have enough support to pass the chamber, after more than two dozen business groups lobbied against it, saying it amounted to too much government regulation. A ban in Florida would follow numerous other actions the state has taken to cut down on Covid restrictions, which have primarily come by executive order from DeSantis. Public mask mandates have long been prohibited in Florida, which lifted capacity restrictions on most businesses last year months before any other large state. The mask mandate ban in schools has led to legal battles between the DeSantis administration and a handful of school districts in Democratic-leaning parts of the state. The Florida Department of Education has responded by pulling state funding from districts that decide to keep mandates, in violation of state orders.