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DeSantis says Florida will sue federal government over workplace vaccine rule

The governor held a printed version of the rule in his hand while he spoke.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seen during a news conference Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seen during a news conference Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. [ The Florida Channel ]
Published Nov. 4, 2021|Updated Nov. 4, 2021

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he would join a lawsuit with Georgia, Alabama and private plaintiffs seeking to nullify a rule by President Joe Biden’s administration mandating coronavirus vaccines or testing in large workplaces.

At a news conference in Tallahassee, DeSantis said the rule was an example of federal overreach. The federal government does not have the power to hand down health mandates, DeSantis argued, nor does it have the power to enforce its rule with fines as high as $13,653 per violation. He also argued a rule that has been coming for close to two months and that requires workers to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 can hardly be a response to an “emergency.”

The state will file its lawsuit in the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Friday, he said.

“We’ve got to stand up. We’ve got to stand up for the Constitutional order,” DeSantis said.

The Republican governor had previously announced his intention to sue the Biden administration over the rule, but the federal government did not release the final version until Thursday. It came in at a bulky 490 pages. The governor, with state Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo by his side, held a printed out version of the rule in his hand while he spoke.

“The federal government can’t just unilaterally impose medical policy under the guise of workplace regulation,” DeSantis said. “That is exactly what they’re trying to do here.”

Republican governors or attorneys general in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana and South Dakota also said Thursday that they would file lawsuits against the mandate as soon as Friday. The Daily Caller, a conservative media company, filed a challenge in federal court on Thursday.

Biden, in a statement Thursday, dismissed the argument from many GOP governors and lawmakers that a mandate for employers will hurt businesses’ ability to keep workers on the job.

“There have been no ‘mass firings’ and worker shortages because of vaccination requirements,” he said. “Despite what some predicted and falsely assert, vaccination requirements have broad public support.”

But DeSantis said Thursday even if a “small percentage” of workers leave their jobs, it could cause major disruptions during a time when supply chains are already struggling to meet consumer demand. Florida is already challenging a different Biden Administration vaccine requirement for federal contractors, and DeSantis said the state plans to file yet another challenge to a vaccine mandate for health care workers.

The administration has been encouraging widespread vaccinations as the quickest way out of the pandemic. However, the workplace rule, which applies to businesses of 100 or more employees, states that those who do not wish to be vaccinated can alternatively be subjected to weekly tests. Employers aren’t required to pay for the tests.

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Florida’s House Speaker, Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, and Senate President, Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, praised the decision to sue, saying that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was being “weaponized” by the president.

They also reiterated their desire to separate Florida from the agency’s oversight. Florida would have to create its own workplace safety program with federal approval, however — a process that takes years. They’re scheduled to debate the idea during a special legislative session in Tallahassee beginning Nov. 15.

“The Florida Legislature looks forward to pursuing separation from OSHA and creating Florida’s own safety and health standards that reflect the views and values of our state,” Sprowls and Simpson said in a joint statement Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. This is a breaking news story that will be updated.

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