Gov. Ron DeSantis has followed through on his threat to fine local governments that require employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, giving Leon County, Fla., Until November 5 to pay a fine of 3.57 million of dollars.
After Leon County administrator Vince Long made vaccines a condition of employment, all 714 employees had to be vaccinated or have a few selected exemptions before October 1. A total of 14 employees were made redundant because they refused to do so.
In an Oct. 6 notice of violation from the Florida Department of Health, Division Director Douglas Woodlief informed Long of the fine that was to be imposed in violation of state law.
In mid-September, DeSantis said it would not let Floridians be sacked due to a vaccination warrant and announced it would start imposing fines of $ 5,000 per employee.
“It is unacceptable that Leon County violated Florida law, violated the medical confidentiality of current and former employees, and fired loyal public servants because of their personal health decisions,” he said on Tuesday. in a statement via spokesperson Taryn Fenske. “Governor DeSantis will continue to fight for the rights of Floridians and the Florida Department of Health will continue to enforce the law.”
Long in an interview on Tuesday argued that the decision represented the surest way to protect employees and citizens. The county “is taking all necessary legal steps to defend the position we have taken in the interest of public health,” he said.
“It is obvious to me that the governor’s position here is a political strategy that has nothing to do with the positions we have taken. The governor’s response to this is unfortunate, and we plan to assert our legal rights to support the actions we have taken, which we believe are not only completely legally justifiable, but are the most responsible thing we do. can do in this case, in accordance with all public health guidelines.
Democratic lawmakers representing Tallahassee rebuked the decision to impose a fine as an overrun by the governor’s office.
“The governor has gone too far,” said state representative Ramon Alexander. “Local governments cannot stand idly by and should have the capacity to issue emergency standards. Vaccines are an important tool that helps us control this pandemic. “
State Representative Allison Tant said she expected the courts to support autonomy in Leon County’s decision on how to govern its workforce.
“As cases in Leon have started to decline, the pandemic is not over and it is important that our Florida counties have the power to protect their citizens as they see fit,” Tant said in a statement. “I predict that the courts will decide this and support Leon County’s fight against this overbreadth of state government.”
To concern:Psaki denounces ordinance blocking Texas vaccination warrants
To travel:Southwest, US among Texas businesses challenge governor to comply with federal vaccine mandate
State Senator Loranne Ausley highlighted the more than 56,000 Floridians who have died from the coronavirus and said it was “incredible” that DeSantis was spending time punishing counties as they tried to protect citizens.
“We don’t need the state to intimidate our communities or our private businesses that are just trying to serve the people and get to the other side of this pandemic,” she said.
DeSantis himself tweeted about the fines.
“No one should lose their job because of COVID injections,” he wrote. “We need to protect the jobs of Floridians and preserve the ability of Floridians to make their own decisions about what to do with them.”
DeSantis’ decision also caught the attention of the White House on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki said the vaccination requirement had been in place for decades in Florida and Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday banned public sector vaccination warrants and private.
She said the decision to stand firmly against them over the coronavirus “puts these two leaders at odds with both long-standing demands, a history of vaccine mandates, but also many business leaders in their states.” .
Leon County District Attorney Chasity O’Steen reviewed the warrant and said it was consistent with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the county’s legal capacity to require vaccinations.
Contact Karl Etters at email@example.com or @KarlEtters on Twitter.