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<p><p>Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference in Monroe County in January, 2021.</p></p><p>PHOTO COURTESY MONROE COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS</p>
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference in Monroe County in January, 2021. PHOTO COURTESY MONROE COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

Update, Nov. 1: Gov. DeSantis gives date for special session

Beginning Nov. 15, legislators from across Florida will make their way to Tallahassee for a special session relating to COVID-19. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the dates for the special session Oct. 29. 

“In Florida, we believe that the decision whether or not to get a COVID shot is a choice based on individual circumstances, so we are litigating against the Biden Administration and will be passing legislation in this Special Session to protect Florida jobs and protect parents’ rights when it comes to masking and quarantines,” DeSantis said in a statement. 

Goals of the legislative session include, per DeSantis: 

  • “Limit mandates by school districts on students or employees regarding COVID-19 and related mitigation measures;
  • “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;
  • “Protect current and prospective employees against unfair discrimination on the basis of COVID-19 vaccination status and ensure robust enforcement for this protection;”

The legislative session will begin Monday, Nov. 15, and run no later than Friday, Nov. 19.

The original story is below.


The Florida Legislature will tackle COVID-19 vaccine mandates in a November special session announced today, Oct. 21.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the decision to call a special legislative session was made to counter federal vaccine mandates and further bolster past anti-mandate decisions made by the governor’s office.

“What we’re going to be doing, in addition to mounting aggressive legal challenges to federal mandates, we’re also going to be taking legislative action to add protections for people in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said at an Oct. 21 press conference in Clearwater. “That’s something that cannot wait until the regular legislative session next year; it needs to happen soon. So we will be calling the Legislature back for a special session.”

In a joint statement from Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson, the two said they intend to respond to “gross overreach by the federal government.”

“In the coming days, we will review the Governor’s specific proposals as well as discuss our own ideas for legislative action, including whether now is the time for Florida to withdraw from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and establish our own state program,” Sprowls and Simpson said in the statement. “We believe that by doing so, Florida will have the ability to alleviate onerous federal regulations placed on employers and employees.”

The federal government has mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for employees at businesses with more than 100 employees, all members of the U.S. armed forces, all federal employees and all employees employed by an entity contracted by the federal government.

For businesses with more than 100 employees, individuals can opt for weekly COVID-19 testing if they choose not to be vaccinated against the virus. 

Deadlines for some mandates — depending on when they were originally issued — come as soon as early November.

One move by a Florida county was swiftly retaliated against by DeSantis.

When Leon County mandated COVID-19 vaccines for county employees earlier this month, the governor’s office issued a $3.57 million fine, $5,000 for each of the county’s 714 employees. 

DeSantis said he believes the legislative session will allow the government to implement laws that will eliminate the possibility of further vaccine mandate measures across the state. 

A date has not yet been set for the legislative session, but DeSantis said he intends to call the Legislature to Tallahassee in November.

West Volusia legislator Sen. Tom Wright said he stands with DeSantis 100 percent.

“We’ve been so proud of Florida being an open state,” Wright told The Beacon. “Our numbers are in great condition as far as this COVID issue, and I’m glad the governor is stepping forward and saying ‘look, we’re not going to put up with this. We’re not going to put up with the federal government saying what we can and can’t do with vaccines.’”

The Beacon was unable to reach any of West Volusia’s other members of the Legislature — Rep. Paul Renner, Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, Sen. Jason Brodeur, Rep. Webster Barnaby or Sen. Travis Hutson — in time for a comment.

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