Democrats protest against special COVID-19 session – Community News
Covid-19

Democrats protest against special COVID-19 session

When a special legislative session convened by Governor Ron DeSantis began Monday, House and Senate Democrats rejected measures deemed by the Republican-controlled legislature to be “political theater” designed to enhance the political aspirations of the Republican legislature. to strengthen the governor.

The special session will focus on Republicans’ opposition to COVID-19’s vaccination and mask requirements, with DeSantis, widely cited as a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2024, spearheading efforts to block such mandates.

Proposals for consideration at the special session (HB 1B and SB 2-B) are designed to ensure that employees can receive waivers from employer-required vaccinations against COVID-19 and prevent governments from requiring employees to receive the vaccinations. Another measure (HB 5B and SB 6-B) would prompt the state to withdraw from federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration oversight.

RELATED: Florida legislator begins special session to weaken COVID-19 vaccine, mask mandates

Evan Jenne, co-leader of the House minority Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, told reporters Monday morning that the special session “isn’t about good public policy,” and said the GOP-backed bills are intended to feud between DeSantis and President Joe Biden. .

“This is political theatre. This isn’t about helping anyone. This isn’t about guaranteeing anyone’s freedoms. This isn’t about government policy. This is about two men holding a measuring contest that they should keep private, and instead of that they let it flow out for the full view of the public,” Jenne said.

Lawmakers this week will also consider a bill (HB 7B and SB 8-B) that would deprive the state surgeon general from making vaccinations mandatory during public health crises. Although Democrats have criticized current state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, Representative Fentrice Driskell called the proposal shortsighted.

“It might seem a bit counterproductive to me to remove this from our … general surgeon’s toolbox as a tool. Because you just don’t know what emerging conditions might arise. So, leaving it as an option, for me, the most prudent course of action,” Driskell, D-Tampa, told reporters Monday.

Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, stood next to some of his House colleagues during a press conference at the Capitol on Monday as he worked through a list of “serious issues” facing Floridians that will not be addressed during the special session.

“We have an affordable housing crisis that needs to be addressed. We need to solve unemployment for so many of those Floridians who are still struggling to get their benefits. We need to expand health care, especially for those workers who have lost access to health care during the pandemic,” Smith said. “Government DeSantis doesn’t want to address any of these issues. Instead, he wants us to come back here to debate masks and COVID-19 vaccines again.”

A group of Senate Democrats also protested the bills on Monday, saying the legislation will do nothing to help small business owners who have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’d like to get to the bottom of the unemployment system. I’d like to come here and talk about condo safety and affordable housing and, you know, the 100,000 septic tanks in Miami-Dade County that need rebuilding because they’re killing Biscayne Bay , a huge commerce and tourism generator for coastal communities,” D-North Miami Beach Sen. Jason Pizzo told reporters Monday morning at a news conference.

The special hearing, expected to last through Thursday and less than two months before the regular legislative session begins on January 11, comes as DeSantis continues to oppose vaccination mandates issued by the Biden administration.

The state has filed lawsuits against the vaccination requirements for federal contractors and companies with 100 or more employees. The Biden administration wants these requirements to come into effect on January 4. DeSantis has also said the state will challenge a decision by the Biden administration to require vaccination of employees in health care facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes, who participate in its Medicare and Medicaid programs.

But Pizzo said much of the language in the special session legislation is vague and criticized the proposed sanctions against business owners who fire employees who have not received vaccinations.

“If you really have a small business owner, a guy owns a barbershop with a couple of chairs, and he’s fined $10,000, which is completely, incredibly disproportionate to $50,000 for a company with maybe 3,000 employees,” he said. pizza.

Pizzo, a former prosecutor, described the legislative measures as “another series of bills being drafted quickly and without much deliberation,” adding that the proposals “seem to address claims or platitudes or statements by the governor.”

And Senator Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, said the special session will not help the state end the nearly two-year-old pandemic.

“Here we are licensing people to opt out of getting a vaccine for many, many reasons. And I think it’s the exact opposite approach that we should be taking to encourage vaccination,” Polsky said.