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State House moves to exempt workers from COVID shots

Florida Capitol

Day two of the Florida Legislature’s special session was a busy one, especially in the House, with measures related to COVID-19 and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ongoing feud with federal safety on the agenda.

After killing several amendments proposed by Democrats, the Republican majority on Tuesday readied for passage a bill that would ensure worker exemptions from employer-required vaccinations against COVID-19. The bill’s sponsor is Rep. Erin Grall, a Republican from Vero Beach.

“We do not believe that employers should be collecting extensive medical information about an employee.”

Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo-Smith offered several amendments that did not pass, including one that would eliminate fines for businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

“This bill has fines and fees that are punitive. They are unfair, and they punish our small businesses and our entrepreneurs simply for doing the right thing.”

The full House is scheduled to vote on the measure Wednesday, with a final Senate vote on an identical proposal planned for Thursday.

Another House vote set for Wednesday deals with a first step toward the state regulating worker safety, and moving away from oversight by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“We are being faced, as a state, with a federal overreach by mandating on Florida’s families a looming deadline, that they can lose their job.”

Rep. Ardian Zika, the House sponsor, believes it is in Florida’s best interests to consider moving to a state safety plan.

Gov. Ron DeSantis would be tasked with developing a plan for the state to replace OSHA by Jan. 17. However, the federal government would have to sign off on a state plan, which could take two to three years.