DeSantis has called the Florida Legislature into Special Session next week!

Democrats are outraged!  Where was the Special Session when Floridians were desperate, suffering from illness/loss, food/housing/employment insecurities, and more? Where was the direction? DeSantis’ motives are clear, self-serving, and dangerous.

While pandering misinformation to his base, he furthers the divide amongst Floridians with an anti-medical science, anti-vax, anti-big government message. Meanwhile, he is putting our lives and livelihoods at risk– with a taxpayer bill of hundreds of thousands of dollars, to boot.

This Special Session from Nov. 15-19 was specifically called by the Governor to rebuke the new federal OSHA COVID-19 vaccine rule. The centerpiece bills will be HB 1B / SB 2B — COVID-19 Mandates and we need you to OPPOSE them.

Contact these legislators before Monday’s session start:

Senator Joe Gruters (R, District 23)   (850) 487-5023

Representative Mike Grant (R)  (850) 717-5075

Senator Ben Albritton (R, District 26)  (850) 487-5026

And these House Commerce Committee Members:

Chair: Ingoglia, Blaise [R] (850) 717-5035

Vice Chair: Drake, Brad [R] (850) 717-5005

Whip: McFarland, Fiona [R] (850) 717-5072

Here are some Talking Points about HB 1B / SB 2B COVID-19 Mandates for your consideration:

  1. Republicans falsely labeled the new OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) as a “vaccine mandate,” but the ETS does not force employees to get vaccinated. The ETS (which covers only private businesses with at least 100 employees) requires implementation and enforcement of written COVID-19 vaccine and testing plans. Businesses can choose to mandate vaccines but still allow for employees to opt-out for religious or medical reasons (plus be tested weekly and wear masks indoors), or businesses can choose a plan that allows all vaccine opt-outs the ability to be tested weekly plus wear masks when indoors. There is no need for this proposed Florida legislation. Do not let Republicans control the language on this.
  2. The OSHA ETS does not currently address small businesses (fewer than 100 employees), whereas the proposed Florida Republican bill is actually more punitive by forcing Florida’s small businesses to absorb costs for testing and PPE of vaccine opt-outs and to face crippling fines for infractions. Demand that the Florida Legislature leave small businesses alone and stop hurting them financially.
  3. Under the proposed Florida legislation, an employee who is terminated for refusal to vaccinate and is not offered an exemption would be able to apply for unemployment insurance. This would set a precedent for unemployment benefits eligibility when workers voluntarily quit their jobs. Florida currently can’t take care of those who currently deserve unemployment benefits. Tell the Florida Legislature to fix their broken system and take care of these well-deserving Floridians first.
  4. The Florida proposed legislation wants “evidence” of prior immunity from COVID-19 as an exemption to receiving the vaccine, but there is no valid COVID-19 antibody titer test that can predict adequate immunity and protection from the virus (FDA Safety Communication, May 19, 2021). The Florida Republican bill can demand “proof” all they want, but medically and scientifically it does not exist!
  5. The proposed Florida legislation wants all COVID-exposed children and teachers — including the unvaccinated — to stop quarantining in order to reduce learning losses from school absenteeism. While we are all concerned about school learning losses, this proposal goes against CDC Guidelines (COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation | CDC) that state only vaccinated and asymptomatic children and teachers can safely stop quarantining. Demand that Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature stop promoting their anti-science, anti-medical theories! Floridians are ready to end this pandemic and get our normal lives back. The only way to do that is to promote vaccinations for all eligible Floridians, including children and teachers. That is how learning losses due to COVID-19 school absenteeism will truly stop.
  6. Here is the kicker — this proposed Florida Republican legislation expires June 1, 2023! We are spending all this wasted time and money on a Special Session – a burden to taxpayers that is estimated to cost over a half million dollars– to debate pointless legislation that will expire in about 18 months. Tell the Florida Legislature to stop wasting our money–or at least hold a Special Session to debate issues that are important to Floridians – unemployment, affordable housing, environmental disasters, health care, etc.

Overall messaging: The question we should ask of any COVID-19 legislation: Does it make Florida safer? This does not, in fact it makes us less safe. All Floridians deserve the Freedom to be Healthy, Prosperous, and Safe. Most of these ideas do the opposite.

The majority of Floridians are ready to move on and get our state back to normal. And they know vaccines and other prevention measures are our best path forward.

Floridians are not interested in these political stunts. This Special Session is nothing but a political stunt that will only be used to grab headlines this week.

Distraction from Real Issues: Floridians need a special session on many problems facing them right now: COVID-19 relief, the broken unemployment system, our underfunded schools, the affordable housing crisis, the looming property insurance catastrophe, our polluted waters, better access to health care, condominium safety in the aftermath of the Surfside tragedy, etc.

Ambitious DeSantis is Out of Touch: Governor DeSantis is not governing. He is actively choosing to fight President Biden instead of the virus.

The Governor’s original idea of stripping liability protections from businesses who act to protect themselves, their workers, and their customers didn’t find any support from the Legislature. This just shows how out of touch his ideas are, even with GOP lawmakers.

Like HB 1 last year, the Governor announces a wild plan for the media attention, and then it’s up to the Legislature to find a way to make it work.

What about the rights of Floridians to be protected from this deadly virus? To have their economy not be put at risk again? To know that every effort is being made to protect them and their loved ones?

The governor called this vanity project to help his GOP presidential primary arms race.

These ideas are dangerous and extremely out of touch with what Floridians need and want.

Florida’s Businesses & Reputation: The business community does not want this. They want the ability to protect themselves, their customers, and their workers. This endangers their workers, reputation, and bottom line.

This risks Florida’s reputation around the world as a safe place to bring your family.

More confusing government red tape: Businesses will be caught between conflicting State & Federal rules.

Vaccines: Vaccines were not a divisive issue before the COVID 19 vaccine was made political. General George Washington required all Continental Army soldiers to be inoculated against smallpox. Are Florida’s Republicans saying they’d protest against a Founding Father’s wise decision to keep American troops safe? Vaccines keep Florida’s workforce safe and working, keeping our economic engine running. A healthy Florida is a prosperous Florida.

We see visitors from around the world every day. Immunization is key to Florida’s continued success. Our reputation as a safe place for a family to visit is at stake. Vaccines helped make America great, and are required to go to public school or enter our country. They have been a world-changing, life-saving scientific advancement that has been embraced for decades.

It’s about public health experts having the tools to save lives. SCOTUS precedent makes clear the Constitution allows measures to stop an epidemic. In the 1905 Jacobson v. Massachusetts case ruling, the Supreme Court upheld vaccine requirements during a smallpox outbreak.

HB 1 B/ SB 2 B Creates a Catch 22: Florida businesses and governments either violate state or federal rules. This will create, in effect, a Tax on Businesses in Florida at $10k per employee.

Nursing Homes & Hospitals have no exemptions in the Federal rules because a health care setting must be kept safe. Lives are at stake. Florida facilities cannot lose their federal funding, so they will be forced to pay these fines, creating a financial strain and making them less safe for vulnerable Floridians.

People who left jobs early in the pandemic were not eligible for unemployment. Why are we valuing the fear of the vaccine more than we valued the fear of the deadly virus that has now killed over 60,000 Floridians?

There are already available options to the vaccine requirement plan… weekly testing instead; medical and deeply-held religious belief exemption. The DeSantis list of vaccine exemptions look VERY similar to the ones already in President Biden’s plan! The Parents’ Bill of Rights was never intended to be used as a weapon to put kids at risk or to prevent schools from acting in the best interest of their children.

HB 3 B/SB 4 B, Public Records Exemption: This Special Session is a bad idea that doesn’t make Florida safer, but if we insist on doing it, then the personal health and religious information of Floridians should be protected. Florida needs to put the Sunshine in Sunshine Law and continue its nation-leading transparency best practices.

HB 5 B/SB 6 B, OSHA Study: Removing Florida from OSHA is an expensive distraction. It will cost us millions, take years, and will likely be denied because Florida cannot simply opt out of worker protections. This will take years to accomplish. Are they admitting this isn’t about COVID, or are they admitting that they expect COVID to be with us for years to come? This is a dangerous game that risks the health and safety of Florida workers.

Bureaucratic waste: This gives DeSantis’ office $1 million of Floridians’ money to create a study that will prove what we already know: this will cost a lot more money, take years, and won’t accomplish what they want. You cannot simply opt out of worker protections in America. No state has left OSHA in nearly 40 years. This isn’t a common, easy, or responsible solution.

States that leave OSHA must create more stringent safety requirements than the federal ones. How does Florida plan to be stricter in its safety measures if the governor wants to create more lenient safety requirements? This is not a critical problem facing Floridians requiring a Special Session. This could have waited until regular session.

HB 7 B/SB 8 B, Removing Surgeon General Power to Order Vaccine: Removing the State Health Officer’s (SHO) legal authority to order vaccine requirements is a dangerous move. Florida will be less prepared to combat the next outbreak. COVID/ Ebola / Bird Flu / Tuberculosis / Polio/ etc. Florida SHO”s legal authority was made law in 2002 by a Republican legislature and was never used, but it is now somehow so bad it requires a Special Session to repeal it.

This is playing politics with public health and safety. Perhaps this has been forgotten, but this is stripping away a post-9/11 bioterrorism safety measure.

It passed nearly unanimously in 2002. Senators Bean, Harrell, and Baxley voted for it. As did Congressmen Posey & Webster, and Senator Marco Rubio. They thought it was important at the time.

The law already provides exemptions for those who do not want to be vaccinated: “Individuals who are unable or unwilling to be examined, tested, vaccinated, or treated for reasons of health, religion, or conscience may be subjected to isolation or quarantine.”Image Credits: Tori Schneider