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DeSantis threatens fines for cities, counties that mandate worker vaccinations

State lawmakers passed, and DeSantis signed into law, a bill that would fine businesses and government agencies that require proof of vaccination.

NEWBERRY, Fla. — Speaking Monday in Gainesville, Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis reinforced the state's position that businesses and government agencies would be fined for requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

Back in April, state lawmakers passed SB 2006 – banning businesses, educational institutions and government entities from making people show proof of vaccination to enter. In May, DeSantis signed that bill into law.

Businesses and government agencies cannot make customers show inoculation proof to come inside, although they can have other health screening protocols. Likewise, schools and colleges cannot require COVID vaccination documents to enroll.

"A government entity...may not require persons to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the governmental entity's operations in this state," the law says.

The way it's written, it doesn't explicitly say a government agency cannot tell one of its own employees to get vaccinated and appears more directed at individuals who walk into the government office for services. However, DeSantis made clear Monday that he believes it covers both.

"If a government agency, in the state of Florida, forces a vaccine as a condition to employment, that violates Florida law and you will face a $5,000 fine for every single violation," DeSantis reminded the public Monday.

The law does not apply to health care providers.

DeSantis said Florida worked hard to distribute vaccines in a way that made them "available for all but mandatory for none."

President Joe Biden announced last week that businesses with 100 or more employees would have to ensure their workers were fully vaccinated or getting tested weekly for the virus. Biden said the continued refusal of people to get vaccinated would cause more damage to the nation.

"We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us," Biden said.

But, DeSantis – who has also encouraged vaccinations – has described the president's action as an example of government overreach, instead pushing for vaccinations to remain a choice for workers.

"When you're taking action that's unconstitutional, that threatens the jobs of the people in my state — many, many thousands of jobs — I'm standing for them. We're going to protect their jobs from federal overreach," DeSantis said.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said Biden lacks the legal authority to make millions of workers get vaccinated.

"His proposal is outrageous and unlawful," Moody tweeted. "I will be closely watching these developments and taking any and all action within the authority of my office to stop this unprecedented power grab."

In Tampa, Mayor Jane Castor recently announced that city employees had until Sept. 30 to get vaccinated or show a valid medical or religious reason why they can't. But, she did leave an opt-out in the policy, allowing employees who go unvaccinated to wear an N-95 mask and take weekly COVID tests.

“This decision may not be the most popular, but it is the right thing to do,” Castor said in August.