Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a series of bills on Wednesday that ban vaccine mandates for public sector employees, require private businesses to adopt more exemptions to vaccine requirements, and prohibit school districts from requiring masks, according to Forbes.
DeSantis signed the package of bills during a news conference at a Brandon Honda dealership in Brandon, Florida, on Thursday — a nod to the "Let's Go Brandon" phenomenon.
"Florida is leading. This is the strongest piece of legislation that's been enacted anywhere in the country in this regard," DeSantis said, NBC's WTVJ reported.
DeSantis and Republican lawmaker Anthony Sabatini pushed to ban employer vaccine mandates entirely during the special session on Thursday. However, the final bill passed by the Legislature regarding the private mandates only requires companies to adopt more exemptions to any vaccine requirements.
Any employer who does not comply with the law will be subject to a fine of $10,000 per employee if it has fewer than 100 workers and $50,000 per violation if it has more than 100.
"Still MUCH MORE work to do on the Bills that were supposed to totally ban private sector vaccine mandates (those Bills were badly watered down by RINOs like Speaker @ChrisSprowls), but this is an important WIN in the meantime," Sabatini said in a tweet.
The bill also strengthens the state's prohibition on school mask mandates by prohibiting school districts from mandating masks.
Another bill makes investigations into businesses accused of violating the new mandate law private until they have been completed.
Democrats said the special session amounts to political theater meant to serve DeSantis' political ambitions, claiming the legislation is dangerous to the public and burdensome to businesses.
"Does this bill truly attempt to keep Floridians safe, or was it crafted to kick off a presidential campaign for our governor?" asked Democrat State Rep. Angie Nixon, per WTVJ.
Separately, lawmakers passed a bill to strip the state's surgeon general of his or her authority to mandate vaccinations.
Republicans also approved a bill directing the state to begin a withdrawal from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) by January and develop a state-led replacement.
Florida has sued the Biden administration's OSHA rule, and a federal court has since issued a temporary stay placing it on hold.
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