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COVID-19 is front and center in the state Capitol for second year

For the second year in a row, COVID policy will be front and center in the State Capitol.
For the second year in a row, COVID policy will be front and center in the State Capitol.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the second year in a row, COVID-19 policy will be front and center in the state Capitol.

Bills are already rolling in ahead of the 2022 session, and some are more controversial than others. Of the COVID-19 bills already filed, two are likely to garner bipartisan support.

The first would make it easier for first responders to receive workers comp if they get COVID on the job.

While it was filed by a Republican, Democratic state Rep. Fentrice Driskell supports the idea.

“These are folks who didn’t have the luxury of working from home,” said Driskell.

State Rep. Ardian Zika also filed a bill that would require insurers to cover the full price of at-home COVID-19 tests.

“I think this is a first step in the right direction,” said Zika.

But state Rep. Anthony Sabatini’s legislation banning government mask mandates and prohibiting all employers, private and public, from imposing vaccine mandates is likely to draw sharp opposition.

“Allow all people to make their own mask and vaccine decisions. I think that’s just common sense,” said Sabatini.

While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has expressed support for banning vaccine mandates for public sector employees, he hasn’t been as vocal about banning mandates for the private sector.

We reached out to the governor’s office and asked whether he would support baring private sector employers from mandating vaccinations for their employees but did not hear back in time for this story.

Democratic state Rep. Evan Jenne argued local governments should make public health decisions in their communities.

“There are certain instances where there needs to be state preemption. When it comes to keeping their communities safe, that’s just not one,” said Jenne.

House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Chair Daniel Perez told us it’s too early to predict how far lawmakers will go on vaccine mandate prohibitions.

“Making sure each individual has an opportunity to make their own decision is something that we will continue to do,” said Perez.

Another bill likely to divide lawmakers would limit when the government can order religious institutions to close in a lockdown.

Since it doesn’t ban church closures outright, it may face some opposition from both parties.