DeSantis: Cities, counties requiring vaccines for employees could be fined millions

Coronavirus

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of a monoclonal antibody site Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. The site at C. B. Smith Park will offer monoclonal antibody treatment sold by Regeneron to people who have tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans to fine Florida city and county governments for infractions against a recent state law aimed at preventing COVID-19 vaccine passports and mandates.

The proposed fines, if enacted, would level $5,000 penalties on municipal governments for each infraction.

DeSantis said local governments that require their employees to be vaccinated violate SB 2006, a recent bill which keeps private businesses from requiring vaccine passports for their customers. The fines would be applied to governments for each employee individually, potentially costing municipal governments millions of dollars.

“We’re gonna protect these jobs,” DeSantis said. “We’re gonna protect these people’s families. We’re gonna protect their livelihoods.”

However, SB 2006 does not contain a provision preventing businesses from requiring their employees be vaccinated. It is unclear what part of SB 2006 the governor intends to use to enforce the potential penalties for municipal governments.

Lt. Jonathan Cicio with Gainesville Fire Rescue spoke against Gainesville city commissioners instituting a vaccine mandate in August, which required its employees to get a COVID-19 shot or face termination.

“Hundreds of us have had COVID and recovered, gaining natural antibodies,” Cicio said. “Many of us have immunity by exposure, and many still have gotten the vaccine. We are not anti-vaccine; we are anti-mandate.”

Tampa also requires its city employees to be vaccinated. Mayor Jane Castor said that the policy is necessary to protect them.

“Vaccines are the way we end this health crisis,” Castor said. “They are safe and effective and the best way to protect city employees and our community. That said, any city employee who does not want to be vaccinated has other options, including weekly tests or showing they have antibodies.”

The governor and other officials also pushed back against President Joe Biden’s announcement that employers with 100 or more employees would need to have their workers vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19. Healthcare workers at facilities that get federal Medicaid or Medicare would also need to be fully vaccinated, per Biden’s announcement, as well as federal employees and contractors.

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said last week.

If a business refuses, they could face “significant” fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida’s 3rd Congressional District announced she would be proposing legislation to counter Biden’s mandate and also further punish local governments that enact mandates of their own.

Cammack said one proposed piece of legislation would pull federal funding from localities that infringe upon “personal medical choices.”

Another one of Cammack’s proposals would remove OSHA’s authority over private businesses to force their employees to be vaccinated.

“Finally, my team is working right now to ensure that HIPAA regulations are tightened, that your medical health records are your business, not the governments and damn sure not city commissioner’s business,” she said.

Meanwhile, the White House is preparing for more legal challenges from Republican leaders who are threatening to sue the Biden administration over its latest vaccine requirements.

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