Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently flexed his political muscle and racked up critical anti-vaccine policy wins as he gears up for reelection and a possible White House bid.
DeSantis’ latest victory was during a special session to fight the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccine mandates. During the session, the state legislature approved four bills that undercut President Biden’s vaccine push.
During the session, the legislation that got the most attention was a proposal offering vaccine exemptions tied to factors including religious beliefs, health concerns, pregnancy, anticipated future pregnancy, medical conditions, and past recovery from Covid-19.
The bill also provides $5 million to investigate complaints made by workers.
Governor DeSantis said during a press conference, “People said at the time, ‘Well, the governor is doing it because the Legislature, they don’t want to, they are going to do something that won’t be effective.
“That’s not true at all. We have been working both with the speaker and the Senate president to get proposed legislation.”
Disney World halts mandate
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, indicated that the decision of Disney World to halt its employee vaccine mandates shows that Governor DeSantis takes “steps backward” when it comes to the Covid-19 mandate.
Psaki said, “They’re based in Florida, and obviously, the governor there has consistently taken steps to take steps backwards as it relates to fighting the pandemic, not forward.”
After a federal court issued a stay on President Biden’s workplace vaccine mandate, Disney World rescinded their vaccine mandates.
In Orlando, Walt Disney World announced that it was pausing its Covid-19 vaccine mandate in response to the stay.
“We believe that our approach to mandatory vaccines has been the right one as we’ve continued to focus on the safety and well-being of our cast members and guests, and at this point, more than 90% of active Florida-based cast members have already verified that they are fully vaccinated. We will address legal developments as appropriate,” said a Disney spokesperson.
In November, the Biden administration finalized a mandate that required businesses with over 100 employees to have their workers tested weekly or be fully vaccinated.
However, the mandate was suspended by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which later ruled to uphold the stay of the president’s order.
Psaki struck an optimistic tone despite the court ruling saying that many businesses would require vaccinations despite a mandate. “I would note that a recent poll showed that 60% of business leaders wanted to move forward on their own with vaccine requirement. We’ve seen them implemented, at a lot of companies, they’ve been effective, and overall it gives a lot of businesses certainty about their workforce, makes people feel more confident in coming back to work.”
Psaki emphasized that the stay will continue to be “litigated through the process,” while the administration continues, “encouraging companies to take steps to protect their workforce.”
DeSantis disagreed, saying, “Nobody should lose their job due to heavy-handed Covid mandates, and we had a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the people of Florida.”
With the Legislature controlled by the GOP, “The governor can do anything he wants to do,” said state Republican Representative Ardian Zika.
However, Democrat senators see DeSantis’ victories differently. “Ultimately, this is about power, right? This entire special session was a power play on the governor, so it does not behoove the legislative leadership, who seems to be in lockstep with this governor, to speak out in a way that would be contrary to him,” said Democrat Representative Fentrice Driskell.