Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) on January 17, 2023, announced a legislative proposal to permanently ban mandates relating to the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. He stated that the legislation would aim to “permanently protect Floridians from losing their jobs due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, protects parents’ rights, and institutes additional protections that prevent discrimination based on COVID-19 vaccine status.”
DeSantis signed legislation during a special session in November 2021 in response to the federal vaccine mandate issued by the Biden administration. The bill prohibited businesses from requiring vaccinations, banned mask requirements in schools, and prohibited schools from requiring students to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure. DeSantis aims to make the measures outlined in the 2021 legislation permanent, as they are set to expire in June 2023. The proposal also aims to provide what the governor has referred to as freedom of speech protections for medical professionals in the state.
In a press release announcing the proposed legislation, DeSantis said, “When the world lost its mind, Florida was a refuge of sanity, serving strongly as freedom’s linchpin.” He continued, “These measures will ensure Florida remains this way and will provide landmark protections for free speech for medical practitioners.”
Democratic lawmakers in the state opposed the 2021 legislation. Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell (D) spoke against the governor’s proposal, stating, “It is a fake ideology with real consequences – 84,000-plus dead Floridians and counting. Masks work, the CDC has proven that. The mRNA vaccines work,” according to CNN.