Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday called for a special session of the state legislature to protect Florida workers from being fired for refusing to comply with President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate.
The Republican governor, known nationally for opposing coronavirus lockdowns and mask and vaccine mandates, said at a news conference in Pinellas County that the state government needs to take action against the federal government to save jobs and livelihoods.
"Your right to earn a living should not be contingent upon COVID shots," DeSantis said in a press statement. "When the vaccines first came out, we worked very hard to provide it, particularly to our elderly, but we said from day one: We will make it available for all, but we will mandate it on none because ultimately we want individuals to make the determinations about what is right for them.
"I want a state in which people are able to maintain their livelihoods, earn a living, and provide for their families. And if the federal government or big corporations are hurting people, then we have a responsibility to step up and lead," DeSantis added.
A date has not yet been set for the legislature to convene.
The governor's office said they are asking the Florida Legislature "to provide protections for employees facing termination because of unfair, discriminatory COVID-19 vaccine mandates and to reaffirm that government entities including school districts may not fire any employee based on COVID-19 vaccine status."
Additionally, DeSantis wants to strengthen protections for parents to make health care decisions for their children, including letting them opt out of school mask mandates. The governor's office said that over the last 12 to 14 weeks, COVID-19 infection data from Florida counties shows "no meaningful difference between counties with parent opt-outs for mask requirements."
Biden in September announced his sweeping plan to require businesses with more than 100 employees to force their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing for the viruses. Businesses that do not comply may face fines. The president also signed an executive order mandating that federal workers and contractors be fully vaccinated or lose their jobs.
The regulation that will create Biden's vaccine mandate is being drafted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Biden administration must follow several bureaucratic processes before the mandate will go into effect, but many businesses are already acting as if the rule has been finalized and is being enforced.
The Business Roundtable immediately endorsed BIden's vaccine mandate after it was announced and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the next day that the administration's "expectation and hope is [employers] will take these steps on their own."
DeSantis wants the legislature to act even before the Biden administration finishes writing and starts enforcing the vaccine rules.
"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 Thursday. "We want to make sure that individuals in Florida have their livelihoods and their jobs protected."
DeSantis also said that the state of Florida will challenge the BIden administration in court once the vaccine mandate is finalized.