State lawmakers to spend $6 million fighting vaccine mandates

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 4:04 PM CST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - While the majority of debate in the state Capitol during the special session on vaccine mandates will be focused on policy, some of the proposals also come with a price tag.

About $6 million will go towards enforcing a mandated ban and creating a new statewide occupational safety agency. With a statewide budget of roughly $100 billion, the $6 million lawmakers plan to commit this week to fight mandates is merely a drop in the bucket. That has some Democrats like Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith questioning how serious Republicans are about these bills.

“Florida’s largest employers went forward with their vaccine requirement and all of those workers are now vaccinated. So this is all a stunt,” Smith said.

About $5 million would go to the Attorney General to fund enforcement of the vaccine mandate ban. State Senator Danny Burgess said those dollars are likely just the beginning.

“The reality is we’re going to be back in two months. So what we wanted to do was make sure that we dedicated enough money at this point in time to able to at least get us through that point in time,” Burgess said.

Lawmakers have also proposed $1 million to plan for a new state occupational health and safety agency. The money would only start the process of creating a statewide OSHA replacement. If a plan is actually carried out the price tag would be significantly higher.

“Probably somewhere between $20 and $25 million to staff it appropriately,” Senate President Wilton Simpson said.

The Governor would have to return a report on the creations of a statewide OSHA by January 17th of next year. That report would detail timelines and costs associated with the creation of the agency.

Rich Templin with the AFL-CIO said he sees potential benefits to a statewide OSHA, but he has doubts lawmakers are truly committed.

“We just want to make sure that this effort is serious to improve worker safety and not just a political stunt looking to get headlines,” Templin said.

The state would also need approval from the federal OSHA, something it would be unlikely to receive under the current administration.