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Florida Legislature to Hold Special Session on Countering Vaccine Mandates

A registered nurse applies a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Sarasota Hospital patient technician Carol Garcia at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Fla., September 24, 2021. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Florida lawmakers will meet for a special legislative session Monday at Governor Ron DeSantis’s urging as part of an effort to combat vaccine mandates in the state.

The state legislature, controlled by Republicans, will deliberate on four bills over the course of a week that are designed to punish private entities and municipalities that mandate vaccination as a condition of employment.

“No cop, no firefighter, no nurse, nobody should be losing their job because of these jabs,” DeSantis said in a media release. “We’re going to be striking a blow for freedom.”

While DeSantis has advocated for the vaccine as a medical innovation, acknowledging that it’s statistically proven to reduce the severity of COVID cases, he has stood firm against coercion, maintaining that vaccination is a personal health decision.

Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, told Reuters that the bills, which would impose fines on businesses that don’t allow employee vaccination exemptions, are designed to bolster existing directives.

In recent months, the governor issued executive orders outlawing public employee vaccine mandates as well as mask mandates in public institutions, including K-12 schools. The latter measure has been suspended in litigation for months pending further judicial review.

“This is a combination of policy and politics,” Jewett said, noting that DeSantis is likely taking cues from former President Trump in opposing sweeping mandates, given that a large percentage of their shared voter base resides in Florida.

Republicans outperformed expectations in the 2016 and 2020 elections and the state recently registered more Republican than Democratic constituents for the first time in years.

DeSantis recently declared his re-election bid for governor but has long been considered a favorite for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. 

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