TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday called for a special legislative session to block the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates, taking the most aggressive action yet in his ongoing fight with the White House over Covid restrictions.
The GOP governor, who has built a national reputation fighting against coronavirus-related lockdowns and mandates, said during a news conference in Pinellas County that the special session will yield a set of protections that will prevent Biden’s vaccine mandates from being enacted in Florida.
“We have an opportunity here to take additional action, and I think we have to do it,” said DeSantis, who previously also said he would challenge the mandates in court. “I think we have got to stand up for people’s jobs and their livelihoods.”
The governor did not announce a date for the session.
DeSantis’ call for a special legislative session does not require approval from state Senate President Wilton Simpson and Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls. Simpson did not respond to text messages about the governor’s plan. Sprowls wrote in a text to wait for a statement from his “team.”
But in a memo to the state House delivered shortly after DeSantis spoke, Sprowls said his office has not received any dates or details associated with the call.
“At this time, we have not received the dates or details regarding any proposed call,” Sprowls wrote. “We are in communication with the Governor’s Office and our partners in the Senate, and we will share details with you as they emerge.”
Biden announced plans in September to issue a vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees and federal workers. The plans sparked fiery responses from Republicans, including DeSantis, who has said vaccination should be a personal choice and people who have become naturally immune to Covid-19 should be exempt from the mandate.
DeSantis’ plans for a special session are the latest in an all-out war between Florida’s Republican governor and President Joe Biden. DeSantis had already spent months fighting with the White House over mask mandates in schools, with DeSantis financially punishing school districts that imposed face covering requirements for students.
“To add protections for people in the state of Florida, and that’s something that cannot wait until the regular legislative session next year, it needs to happen soon,” DeSantis said. “We want to make sure that individuals in Florida have their livelihoods and their jobs protected.”
The rules that would govern Biden’s mandate have yet to be made by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but they’re expected to also include sanctions against federal contractors and hospitals that fail to force employees to become vaccinated against Covid-19. DeSantis said he plans to sue the government over those provisions as well.
DeSantis has also taken action against Leon County for a vaccine mandate that led to the termination of 14 county employees. The Florida Department of Health issued Leon County a $3.57 million fine.