Editorial: DeSantis’ reckless ambition to be fully exposed in upcoming special session

·4 min read

You’ve acquiesced to every one of his demands, shoved through laws you had to know were unconstitutional despite constant bleating about your love of the Constitution, and given away the store to big business in what may have been the only chance to increase state revenues in our lifetimes.

But come on, Florida Legislature. You’re not done yet.

Before you move on to the 2022 legislative session, you have to do one more favor for Gov. Ron DeSantis. And this is a big one, because you’ll be antagonizing almost every major business mega-donor in the state, including The Mouse itself and any major employer that has federal contracts (which is to say, nearly all of them).

Never mind, legislators, that employees are required to get a vaccine, and a Texas governor already tried to ban employer vaccine mandates and failed before his own conservative state legislature. Do DeSantis a big favor and make him look like the most right-wing governor in the United States. It’s time for a special session dedicated to fully exposing the ambition and arrogance of this governor.

Perhaps it’s that arrogance that led DeSantis to call for a special session Thursday without seriously consulting legislative leaders, leading to House Speaker Chris Sprowls to put out an initial statement that read along the lines of, “Wait, what?”

“This morning Governor DeSantis announced that he plans to call the Legislature into a special session. At this time, we have not received the dates or details regarding any proposed call. We are in communication with the Governor’s Office and our partners in the Senate, and we will share details with you as they emerge,” the Sprowls statement read in its entirety.

He issued another statement later that same day in conjunction with Senate President Wilton Simpson that suggested a modicum of independence, which DeSantis will surely not appreciate.

“We will review the governor’s specific proposals as well as discuss our own ideas for legislative action,” the statement read in part, “including whether now is the time for Florida to withdraw from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and establish our own state program.”

That would be an option, as 22 states have their own state programs instead of falling directly under the federal OSHA Act. But those plans require federal approval, and it’s hard to imagine the Biden administration approving a plan designed to prevent as many workers as possible from getting vaccinated.

Indeed, the White House has already issued its own vaccine mandate for any business with a federal contract, requiring them to either enforce that employees are vaccinated or terminate them, barring exceptions for medical or religious reasons.

And those businesses — some of the largest in Florida — are complying. So are their employees. Florida Blue CEO Pat Geraghty told the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board that of the roughly 14,000 people his company employs, just 100, or roughly 0.7%, have asked for a religious exemption. As for trying to comply with the conflicting demands of the Biden and DeSantis administrations, Geraghty simply said: “Federal law trumps state law.”

Florida Blue has given roughly $2 million to the Republican Party of Florida over the past decade, and far more to a web of pro-Republican PACs where the real money goes in state politics. That’s chump change compared to Disney, which instituted its own vaccine mandate for non-union employees months before President Biden required one.

So come on, Florida Legislature. Gov. DeSantis is in a “Quien es mas conservative” contest with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, so put aside the gobs of money you’ve received from employers who will suddenly face crushing fines — just the small businesses, of course, since federal contractors have to comply with federal mandates. Go ahead, put aside the reality that two-thirds of Floridians actually prefer employer vaccine requirements, and get this done if you have any hope of getting a minor appointment or assistant to the deputy assistant cabinet secretary gig in a forthcoming DeSantis administration. Remember, he’s counting on you, and you never let him down.

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The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Steve Bousquet, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Dan Sweeney, and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Editorials are the opinion of the Board and written by one of its members or a designee. To contact us, email at letters@sun-sentinel.com.

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