TALLAHASSEE – Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday promised to launch a legal assault on the Biden government’s new workplace vaccination regulations, due to come into effect immediately after the holiday season ends.
The GOP governor said Florida will team up with Alabama, Georgia and private employers on Friday in a preventive legal challenge to a new vaccination or testing requirement for companies with more than 100 employees. The state will also quickly file a separate lawsuit against a vaccination mandate for medical personnel in facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid.
“I think people are just sick of being bossed around, restricted, hired and all these different things,” DeSantis said at an afternoon press conference at the Capitol. “We’ve had enough of it and we want people to be able to make their own decisions.”
These actions are the latest in an ever escalating and increasingly caustic feud between Biden and DeSantis, a rising GOP star who is believed to be the leading contender for president in 2024 in the midst of a fight as they try to come to terms with the dueling guidelines State and federal governments to deal with.
The looming litigation comes less than two weeks before state lawmakers are due to return to Tallahassee for a special session to pass new laws, driven by DeSantis, to deter private companies from enacting their own vaccine mandates.
DeSantis described the mandates announced by the Biden administration the day before as “unconstitutional” and “illegal” and even promised to use state taxpayers’ money to offset federal fines imposed on companies in the state.
The governor also predicted that the new mandates, which won’t come into effect until after the holidays, would only be the beginning. He added that the Biden government would eventually mandate that those previously vaccinated be given booster shots.
Florida’s lawsuit is filed by Attorney General Ashley Moody, who has also blown vaccine mandates and called the Biden government’s actions “authoritarian.”
“When this president got angry and lost patience and said that unvaccinated Americans kill others, he decided to violate our constitution’s limitation of his powers and get his way,” Moody said.
Despite his insistence that no one should be fired for refusing to get an injection, DeSantis has stopped advocating a total ban on employer requirements. Instead, he suggested that companies face sanctions that would convince them to drop mandate considerations. The governor also claimed that lawmakers could strip employers of recently enacted protection from Covid-19-related lawsuits, despite not including that proposal in the special session proclamation it issued last week.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat who challenges DeSantis in the race for governor next year, said she disagreed with the Biden administration’s mandates but suggested the governor was hypocritical for persecuting school boards and local governments because they wouldn’t have wanted to follow his guidelines on Covid-19.
“We are in this position because of a failure by Governor DeSantis’ leadership to provide a platform for conspiracy theorists and extremism by denying the effectiveness of vaccines and science-based public health policies,” Fried said in a statement. “The governor himself is now trying to enact his own mandates to prevent corporations, local governments and school authorities from protecting their own voters.”
The Biden government released two new rules on Thursday that will be enforced from January 4th. Together, the rules should affect over a million employees and follow the guidelines for federal entrepreneurs that have already been introduced and which are also due to come into force on January 4th. However, these contractor guidelines are also the target of several lawsuits, including one filed by Florida last week.
In a statement, Biden defended the need for the mandates.
“The virus will not go away by itself, or because we want it to: we have to act,” said Biden. “Vaccination is the best way out of this pandemic. And although I would have liked very much that the requirements weren’t necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to be able to finally overcome this pandemic.”
DeSantis argued that the regulations for employers – made by the Labor Protection Agency – were never approved by Congress and that OSHA cannot legally justify that there is an emergency to impose now. He said that once the state files its appeal in the 11th District Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Florida, it will file for immediate suspension.
“I think this rule will be totally abolished,” he said during a morning press conference in Jacksonville.
Florida legislatures – who were caught off guard by DeSantis’ insistence on holding a special session this month – still support much of what the governor wants. Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson reiterated Thursday that they want to consider laws that would replace OSHA with state oversight.
“Today, however, it has become even clearer that OSHA is not being used by the Biden administration to protect workers, but rather to introduce an illegal and unconstitutional nationwide vaccination mandate that robs Americans of the dignity of work,” Sprowls and Simpson said in a joint Announcement. “As we said earlier, Florida lawmakers look forward to advancing separation from OSHA and creating Florida’s own safety and health standards that reflect the views and values of our state.”