Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called legislators to a special session next week to address proposals designed to push back on President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates for private companies and employers with more than 100 workers.
One of the proposals likely to be considered is whether the Sunshine State should “withdraw from oversight of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration” after the agency issued the vaccine mandate last week, Fox Business reported. Under the order, businesses are instructed to implement a vaccine requirement or force workers to submit to a weekly coronavirus test.
Both chambers of the Florida legislature made proposals this week for the special session that will begin on Monday and last through Nov. 19. Republican majority leaders in the state House and Senate are in favor of expelling OSHA oversight.
“If OSHA, the Department of Labor and OSHA, is going to be weaponized as a way to hold hostage businesses throughout the state of Florida, no problem. We want a different plan,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls told reporters, according to the News Service of Florida.
“We want out of OSHA. We’ll submit our own regulatory authority and say goodbye to the federal government,” he added.
Meanwhile, Wilton Simpson, the state Senate president, noted in a statement: “After 40 years in the private sector running businesses that depend on an in-person workforce, where significant safety risks have to be mitigated, I am shocked to see such an unconstitutional mockery of the important role of OSHA.”
“We have got to stop trying to browbeat people,” said DeSantis, who appeared at the press conference with Sprowls. “From the very beginning, we’ve said, let’s not put people down, let’s lift people up. That’s what we are going to be doing, and we are going to be saving a lot of jobs in the state of Florida.”
The local report noted that even if the state legislature were to pass a measure, it would be just a “first step” towards getting out from under OSHA oversight, according to a proposal that has been sponsored by Republicans Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Ardian Zika. The process of withdrawing “could take several years,” the NSF reported.
But in the meantime, barring federal court decisions, Florida businesses would still be subjected to fines under the mandate after the Jan. 4 deadline when the agency will begin enforcing the order. They could be fined up to $136,532 for “willful” violations.
Florida lawmakers will also consider proposals during the special session that would bar government workers from being forced to get a COVID vaccine, as well as require employers to allow workers to receive vaccine exemptions. Another proposal would ban the state surgeon general from requiring citizens to get the jab.
Florida is one of nearly two dozen states led by Republicans to have filed lawsuits against the federal government seeking to block or overturn the mandate. Most suits argue that OSHA lacks the constitutional authority to impose the mandate on states, while the administration says OSHA is acting under lawful authority granted the agency by Congress.
“DeSantis has also said the state will challenge a Biden administration move to require vaccination of workers at health-care facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes, that take part in the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” the NSF reported.
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