CLEARWATER, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he is taking action against what he feels is the federal government's overreach regarding mandating the COVID-19 vaccine.
President Joe Biden announced the mandate in September when he unveiled his six-pronged plan to combat COVID-19 in the U.S. this fall.
Backed by residents with signs that said "Freedom Has A Home Here" and "Don't Tread On Florida," the briefing took place at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office hangar in Clearwater.
DeSantis said he is calling for a special session in November for state lawmakers to address federal vaccine mandates for businesses and workers.
"We need to take action to protect Florida jobs, and we have a situation now, unfortunately, in our country where we have a federal government that is very much trying to use the heavy hand of government to force a lot of these [COVID-19 vaccine] injections," DeSantis said.
Former Orange County Battalion Chief Stephen Davis was among the speakers at the briefing.
Davis was fired recently for refusing to follow the county's mandate that all employees get vaccinated against COVID-19.
"We have got to stand up for people's jobs and their livelihoods," DeSantis said. "You shouldn't be discriminated against based on your health decisions ... We want to make it clear that in Florida your right to earn a living is not contingent upon whatever choices you're making in terms of these injections."
Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls released a memo shortly after the governor spoke saying he had not received any dates or details related to the special session call.
He said he was troubled that the Biden administration's vaccine mandate will hurt federal contractors, putting "thousands and thousands of jobs in jeopardy."
"We have a lot of contractors in the state of Florida that help defense and space all these key things," the governor said. "They're now facing getting kicked to the curb."
DeSantis was also joined by both Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo at the announcement.
Florida's House Democratic Caucus immediately called a virtual news conference Thursday morning to rebuke the governor's call for a special session.
State Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said the governor is simply "playing politics" and not making the interests of Florida residents a priority.
Florida Agriculture Nikki Fried, who is running in the Democratic primary for next year's governor's race, also excoriated DeSantis.
"This is a purely self-serving political ploy by the Governor, once again pulling out all the stops to appease – and encourage – extremist positions that fly in the face of science and public health instead of protecting our children, our communities, and our economy," Fried said in a written statement. "It provides a dangerous platform for extremists who have been threatening those trying to do right to keep their communities safe, and creates a slippery slope by undermining public health policies supported by sound science and the medical community by instead promoting conspiracy theorists and risky unproven treatments."
"I think it’s another attempt by our governor to overreach his bounds," said State Sen. Bobby Powell.
Powell is a supporter of the mandates saying they protect public health, adding that a special session will be costly.
"It’s not fiscally conservative to send us back to Tallahassee during a special session which cost approximately $72,000 a day," Powell said. "If we’re there for two or three days, we're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money."
President Biden said last month when he announced the vaccine mandate that the COVID situation in the U.S. has, for the most part, become a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."
Biden has said he is using every tool to combat the coronavirus and save lives, while also protecting the economy from lockdowns and further damage.