Looming political fight between Biden, DeSantis to trap up to 33% of Orlando metro workers

ORLANDO, Fla. — A pending political fight between President Biden and Gov. Ron DeSantis over vaccine mandates threatens to trap at least some of the 33% of Orlando metro area workers who are employed by large companies.

DeSantis announced Thursday he was calling a special session of the Florida Legislature to penalize companies who enact vaccine mandates. The governor has been increasing his rhetoric since Biden announced that companies with more than 100 employees will have to mandate vaccines under a set of rules that have not been enacted yet.

READ: Coronavirus: CDC recommends boosters for all three vaccines

DeSantis is currently the presumed Republican frontrunner in the 2024 presidential election, even though he has not announced his candidacy. He must win his current position back in 2022 before thinking about potential aspirations in Washington.

“We have a responsibility to fight back and defend the constitutional system,” he said, to roars from the gathered crowd.

However, his own use of the bully pulpit will place large companies between the warring political parties. Corporations will be subject to Biden’s federal mandate, which has standing through legal precedent, and failing to follow it could risk federal contracts. However, they may be hesitant to cross DeSantis who has not hesitated to pursue legal actions against companies with policies he disagrees with.

DeSantis is calling to strip many liability protections from the companies that do enact mandates, including opening them up to lawsuits from employees.

“If anyone has been forced to do an injection and has an adverse reaction, that business should be liable for that any damages,” he said.

READ: Florida judge hears debate on school boards’ challenge on masking at schools

Medical exemptions exist for people who have experienced reactions to other vaccines, may be allergic to an ingredient or whose doctors have recommended against vaccination.

478,000 workers in the Orlando area are employed by large companies, according to Orlando Economic Partnership data, though many have already been vaccinated. During a press conference Thursday, Health Director Dr. Raul Pino said 75% of Orange County citizens had received at least one shot.

DeSantis’ plan has been condemned by many Democrats as a self-serving ploy. The governor and his team have accused Mayor Jerry Demings of grandstanding as well, after the county fired a battalion chief who did not enforce its vaccine mandate.

“We acknowledge the risk of our first responders and we acknowledge they assume that risk,” Demings said, before adding: “Vaccinated firefighters are better prepared to serve than those who are not.”

The former chief, Stephen Davis, said the county’s list of people who should be reprimanded was outdated. Demings did not explain why the county chose to fire the chief instead of confirming that the list was accurate, as Davis claimed.

READ: State of Florida joins firefighter lawsuit against Orange County over vaccine mandate

“It is simply despicable that the Mayor’s grandstanding power-trip would prevent this heroic first responder from earning a living and taking care of his family and community,” DeSantis’ press secretary wrote.

Both sides indicated they were prepared to go to court to determine they were correct on all of the political battlegrounds.

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