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DeSantis signs bills banning vaccine mandates, gain of function research

One will ban businesses and governmental entities from requiring individuals to provide proof of vaccination to enter a business or a government and prohibit employers from discriminating against employees due to their vaccination status.

Published: May 11, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed four bills in Destin on Thursday that empower doctors, prohibits gain of function research, and protects Floridians from medical mandates, including permanent protections from COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

"Our early actions during the pandemic protected Floridians and their freedoms." DeSantis said in a news release, adding that the legislation "protects against medical authoritarianism and rejects the hysteria around COVID-19."

Among the bills DeSantis signed Thursday was Senate Bill 252, which protects Floridians from discrimination over their COVID-19 vaccination status. It will ban businesses and governmental entities from requiring individuals to provide proof of vaccination to enter a business or a government and prohibit employers from discriminating against employees due to their vaccination status.

The two-term Republican also signed into law SB 1718 on Thursday, which was authored by Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill. The bill was designed to combat illegal immigration and makes E-Verify mandatory for employers with more than 25 employees. There are also penalties for people who employ illegal aliens and prohibits local governments from issuing ID cards and invalidates ID cards issued in other states, including drivers licenses.

Hospitals will also be required to inquire about a patient’s legal status, however, their status will not prevent them from receiving care or will their status be reported to immigration authorities.

DeSantis inked House Bill 1387, which prohibits gain of function research related to pathogens and SB 1580, which allows health care providers and health care payors to have a right to not participate or pay for certain health care services if those services run counter to their beliefs.

Two fiscal bills are still on the governor's desk awaiting signatures.

HB 7063, the state’s tax package would axes the state sales tax permanently for baby diapers, adult incontinence products, baby clothing and cribs, and over-the-counter pet medications. Families will have a sales tax holiday during summer vacation on products like camping gear, concerts and other attractions around the state. Under HB 7063, eligible commuters can claim 50% of toll costs.

Also awaiting DeSantis' signature is the state budget, SB 2500, which has $117 billion in appropriations, $7 billion more than expected. Big-ticket items include new infrastructure projects, school expansion programs, increased quality of care in nursing homes, law enforcement and preservation of the Everglades.

In additional to fiscal and medical matters, Florida's Legislature was busy this session, passing more than 300 bills that dealt with education, state security and immigration.

SB 244 was sponsored by Sen. Alexis Calatayud, R-Miami, and is known as the Teachers Bill of Rights and allows teachers to file administrative and civil complaints if a school or school district directs them to violate Florida law. Teachers are protected from litigation and professional sanctions for restoring order to their classrooms.

Teachers also have the right to opt out of joining a teachers union and SB 256, which was authored by Ingoglia, also requires public sector unions to revoke a membership upon receiving a written request.

HB 1035 authored by Rep. Karen Gonzalez Pittman, R-Tampa, authorizes the Inspector General within the Department of Education to investigate any allegations or reports of rights violations. The bill also established the Heroes in the Classroom Bonus Program that offers one-time bonuses to retired first responders and military who become full-time teachers.

HB 1537 which was sponsored by Rep. Alex Rizo, R-Hialeah, establishes support for student teachers and those new to the industry by extending temporary teaching certificates from three to five years, eliminating red tape for certification. Also authored by Rizo is HB 477 which changes term limits for school district board members from 12 years to eight years and requires school board elections to be bipartisan.

HB 379 was sponsored by Rep. Bradford Yeager, R-New Port Richey, and prohibits the use of certain platforms on devices that are owned by the district and requires school districts to teach students about the social, emotional, and physical effects of social media. SB 258 also prohibits the use of certain apps on government-issued devices owned by countries of concern like the app Tik Tok, which is owned by the Chinese Communist Party.

SB 264 by Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa, further restricts governmental entities from entering into contracts with foreign countries or entities of concern, and restricts the sale of farmland and land near military bases to Chinese foreign nationals.

SB 846 authored by Sen. Brian Avila, R-Hialeah Gardens, prohibits any agreements between state-run colleges and universities and China or any other entity or country of concern unless first approved by the Board of Governors. Performance funding can also be withheld and private schools with close affiliations with China, are prohibited from accessing the state’s school choice scholarship program.

HB 543 authorizes a legal resident of Florida to carry a concealed weapon for self protection. A permit will no longer be required to carry a firearm or weapon, however, those wanting to travel out of state with their firearm, are encouraged to get a license. Those who carry firearms will only be required to carry valid identification.

HB 3 sponsored by Rep. Bob Rommel, R-Naples, removes environmental, social and governance considerations in state and local pension funds, bonding decisions, lending decisions and state contracting and the bill also protects Floridians, businesses, and organizations from discrimination from banking entities, based on political or religious beliefs.

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