Nov. 18 (UPI) — In reproach of mandates issued by President Joe Biden to stymie the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature passed a series of bills restricting the government’s ability to enforce vaccine and mask mandates.
The bills were passed mostly along party lines Wednesday during a special session called by Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss the joint legislation agenda titled “Keep Florida Free” that will now be sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
“We have passed the smartest, strongest legislation in America to combat the Biden administration’s unlawful vaccine mandate,” Senate Speaker Chris Sprowls said in a statement upon the agenda’s passing. “The result of this week’s work is simple: No one who is subject to Florida law will be forced to get a vaccine who does not want one.”
The series of four bills passed by the Florida House and Senate prohibit COVID-19 vaccination mandates for government and public education employees as well as for private businesses. It prohibits mask mandates in public schools and protects unvaccinated employees from losing their jobs to federal mandates. It also repeals the surgeon general’s authority to mandate vaccinations.
The laws were introduced in direct response to Biden mandating federal employees, employees of private businesses with a workforce of at least 100 people and medical professionals at Medicare and Medicaid facilities be fully vaccinated.
DeSantis, tweeting a photo in which he is surrounded by supposedly unvaccinated medical professionals, said: “I look forward to signing legislation that will protect their jobs and the jobs of all Floridians who are facing unjust termination due to heavy-handed mandates!”
The passing of the bills follows an appeals court of Friday extending a hold on Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate for private businesses. The White House has said the vaccine mandates aim to ensure that about 100 million U.S. workers are vaccinated in order to save lives.
Florida is one of the Republican-controlled states that has balked at COVID-19 mitigating measures put in place by the Democratic president, suing the administration over its federal contractor mandate as well as joining other GOP states in suing it over its vaccine-or-test mandate for private businesses.
The state has also battled its local public schools that have attempted to issue mask mandates, claiming they strip parents of their right to choose their children’s healthcare.
“Today, we are sending a clear message that Florida stands for Freedom,” Senate President Wilton Simpson said. “We will not allow the Biden administration to make political pawns of the very people who put their lives on the line to keep our economy running while everyone else was safe at home, and we will never cede the responsibility of parenting to the school system or bureaucrats in the federal government.”