TALLAHASSEE - A Miami state senator on Thursday tried to emulate the “vaccine passport” initiative but in reverse, sponsoring a proposal to prevent schools and businesses from requiring people to not get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Miami, filed an amendment after he said state education officials told him Centner Academy did not violate any policy or law when it informed parents of its anti-vaccination policy for teachers and staff and spread misinformation to children about the potential risks of vaccination.
“So right now, this is it. My district is counting on us to push back against this quackery,” Pizzo said.
The amendment failed on a 19-19 vote, keeping the proposal off the underlying bill, which includes a ban on “vaccine passports” sought by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Senate Health Policy Chairman Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, and Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island, did not vote, though they were in the Capitol on Thursday. Three Republicans — Sen. Jeff Brandes, of St. Petersburg, Senate Education Committee Chairman Joe Gruters, of Sarasota, and Sen. George Gainer, of Panama City — joined Democrats in favor of the amendment.
“Let’s show that the Senate is not insane, that we’re reasonable people and that we are not going to allow businesses to prevent someone from working there for doing exactly what we told them that they should do,” Brandes told senators before the vote.
Sen. Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican sponsoring the bill, said he shared Pizzo’s “sentiment” and hoped he could address the problem at Centner Academy. But he said the amendment could put the bill in jeopardy due to timing and because it is not clear whether the House would support it.
“I don’t care what’s in the rest of the bill,” Pizzo said. “Each one of those kids in my district are a hell of a lot more important than the timing and inconvenience it is to send it back to the House to put this on.”
The bill is now on its way back to the House without Pizzo’s proposed language. If it becomes law, businesses, schools and government entities across Florida will be barred from asking anyone to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.
“In Florida, you can get fired for protecting your health. That’s the message my Republican colleagues sent when they failed to protect everyday Floridians from being discriminated against or fired for following CDC guidance and getting a COVID vaccine,” Pizzo said in a statement shortly after the Senate voted down his amendment.
He added: “I fought for children in my community who have been told not to hug their parents if they’ve been vaccinated, and for their teachers whose livelihoods have been threatened if they choose to get a shot for their own health and for the health of our state.”
Get insights into Florida politics
Subscribe to our free Buzz newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
• • •
Tampa Bay Times Florida Legislature coverage
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news from the state’s legislative session. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.