By Rich McKay
Florida lawmakers will meet in a special legislative session Monday, called by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis with the goal of thwarting coronavirus vaccine mandates.
In a week-long session, the lawmakers, largely dominated by the Republican party, are slated to consider four bills that would impose new penalties on businesses and local governments that require workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the agenda released last week by the governor’s office.
“No cop, no firefighter, no nurse, nobody should be losing their job because of these jabs,” DeSantis said in a media release, referring to injections as jabs.
“We’re going to be striking a blow for freedom,” he said. DeSantis has long been a supporter of voluntary vaccines, and has received one himself, according to media reports.
The bills, if passed, would buttress a series of similar rules and state executive orders already put in place by DeSantis, said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida.
“This is a combination of policy and politics,” Jewett said, adding that DeSantis is following former President Donald Trump’s lead in being staunchly against mask and vaccine mandates.
“DeSantis knows that Trump supporters don’t like masks or this vaccine,” Jewett said. “There’s no denying it’s politics with an eye not only on the governor’s race, but an eye toward the White House.”
DeSantis has recently announced he is running for re-election in the 2022 governor’s race and is seen by political insiders as a potential presidential candidate in 2024.
The bills would impose fines on private businesses that don’t allow employee exemptions to any COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
“This is something that his base will love,” Jewett said. “He is establishing himself as a freedom fighter.”