Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday proposed a permanent ban on mandates related to COVID-19 in the state, from mask requirements in schools to the use of vaccine passports.
DeSantis’s proposal, dubbed “Prescribe Freedom,” asks the GOP-controlled state legislature to make permanent Florida’s bans on COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates in schools and the government, plus prohibitions to keep private employers from enacting mask mandates or hiring and firing based on vaccination status.
The governor signed the existing bans last year during a special session of the state legislature, and the move to solidify them comes ahead of an expiration date set for June, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
The latest proposal asserts that making the bans permanent would protect Floridians’ “right to disagree with the preferred narrative of the medical community” and gives more room for religious views.
“When the world lost its mind, Florida was a refuge of sanity, serving strongly as freedom’s linchpin. These measures will ensure Florida remains this way and will provide landmark protections for free speech for medical practitioners,” the governor said in a release.
DeSantis has situated himself since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as a strong opponent of federal policies and pandemic restrictions.
Last month, the Florida governor called for a grand jury investigation into alleged “crimes and wrongdoing” related to COVID-19 vaccines in the state and set up Florida’s own Public Health Integrity Committee because he distrusts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The move was denounced by health experts.
Rumored to be floating a 2024 presidential run, DeSantis has appeared to try to position himself to the right of former President Trump, who has already announced his latest White House bid and whose handling of the pandemic’s early days has drawn criticism from some conservatives.