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Politics / Issues
Get the latest coverage of the 2021 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

A Florida bill would close loopholes in the vaccine passport ban and mask mandate executive order

 Then-Rep. Keith Perry debates a bill on the House floor, 2011.
Then-Rep. Keith Perry debates a bill on the House floor, 2011.

The measure is a response to local government efforts to side-step state law.

Republicans are gearing up to fight vaccine and mask mandates imposed by local governments. Sen. Keith Perry's, R-Gainesville, proposal comes amid lawsuits between state and local governments over such measures.

Perry’s bill would stop cities, counties, and any other government entity from “requiring citizens of the United States to submit to any medical procedure or receive any medical treatment.” It also explicitly blocks school boards from requiring face coverings

The measure is a response to local government efforts to side-step state law. In a statement, Perry's office says the senator was responding to the City of Gainesville's effort to require its employees to be vaccinated. The city walked that policy back after a judge blocked it.

The bill also targets local school boards, some of which are violating Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of wearing face coverings. The state is now fining 10 districts that require a doctor's note to opt-out.

“Local governments across the state have been persistently violating COVID-19 emergency policies enacted by the governor, Department of Health, and the Department of Education,” Perry said in a statement.

“I filed Senate Bill 452 to further codify liberties that are being violated and will be looking at other policies that support medical freedom. It is certainly a work in progress, but I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this legislation on the governor’s desk.”

Perry's bill builds on a state effort last year to ban so-called vaccine passports.

“This is the problem when you try to take a culture war to a policy level. And unfortunately, this has mutated from a public health emergency to a culture war," said House minority leader Evan Jenne.

Leon County was recently hit with a $3.5 million fine over its requirement that employees be vaccinated or be fired. Meanwhile, several school districts have been fined over their mask policies and some are suing.

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