DeSantis, local Republicans celebrate legislative successes.

Florida governor, and potential presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis (R), visited Oceans Church in Destin, Florida to sign a set of four bills in front of a crowd of supporters of about 300, which included State Senator for the Niceville area – Jay Trumbull (R – Panama City), State Representatives Patt Maney (R – Shalimar) and Dr. Joel Rudman (R – Navarre) – as well as Okaloosa County Commissioners Carolyn Ketchel (R – Shalimar) and Mel Ponder (R – Destin). 

The bills centered around changes in the healthcare field. In short – here’s what each law will do. 

Ron DeSantis signs four bills in Destin.
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Senate Bill 252

Senate Bill 252, called the “Most Comprehensive Medical Freedom Bill in the Nation,” by the governor’s office will do several things. Businesses are no longer allowed to refuse service, refuse to hire someone, or refuse to promote or retain an employee because they don’t have the COVID-19 vaccine.

The same rules apply to people who refuse to take a COVID-19 test or wear a mask.

“It is the intenet of the Legislature that Floridians be free from mandated facial coverings, mandates of any kind relating to vaccines as provided in this section, and discrimination based on vaccination status,” the éntree to the bill reads.

Universities and schools cannot require documentation of a COVID-19 vaccine for admission, access, entry, or service.

The bill also requires businesses to provide exemptions and reasonable accommodations for religious and medical reasons following federal law.

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Tallahassee old and new capitol buildings from the south side of monroe street
Tallahassee: old and new capitol buildings from the south side of Monroe street

The new law does make exceptions for masks when “a face mask, a face shield, or any other facial covering that covers the mouth and nose is required safety equipment consistent with occupational or laboratory safety requirements, following the standards adopted by the Department of Health.” The law requires the Department of Health to create standards for the appropriate use of facial coverings for infection control in healthcare settings, like doctors’ offices or hospitals. Those rules will be developed by July 1st, and medical practices will have to comply with the rules by August 1st. Healthcare workers will not be able to require a person to wear a facial covering “for any reason unless the requirement is per the standards, policies, and procedures developed by the State Department of Health.

SB 252 also allows the government to fine businesses that violate the law up to $5,000 for each violation of the law. It also enumerates explicitly a person’s ability to sue a company that violates this law for damages.

Senate Bill 1580

Senate Bill 1580 – called the Physicians Freedom of Speech bill – was the result of Efforts in the Florida House by Dr. Joel Rudman, borne from the events in 2021 surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The law gives medical professionals “the right to opt out of participation or payment for any healthcare service on the basis of conscience-based objection.”

  • One section of the bill, Important to Rudman, disallows a medical board or department from acting against a medical practitioner if they speak or write about health care service or public policy. 
  • Should a board reprimand a medical professional for their speech on health care service or public policy, the State of Florida can pull their ability to regulate their specialty. 

House Bill 238

Succinctly, House Bill 238 – now a law – will block medical records which are part of a complaint against discrimination provisions from being released via a public records request. 

House Bill 1387

House Bill 1387 bans research that could lead to potential pandemic pathogens and requires researchers who want to apply for state or local funding to disclose whether their research would “meet the definition of enhanced potential pandemic pathogen research.”

It clamps down on advertising medical marijuana centers from producing products the state deems “attractive to children” – and now requires medical marijuana testing facilities to give employees background checks.  

The state now defines the term “attractive to children” to mean: “the use of any image or words designed or likely to appeal to persons younger than 18 years of age, including, but not limited to, cartoons, toys, animals, food, or depictions of persons younger than 18 years of age; any other likeness to images, characters, or phrases that are popularly used for advertising to persons younger than 18 years of age; or any reasonable likeness to commercially available candy.”

In addition to these two pieces of the law, legislators threw these other provisions into the bill. 

  • Requires registrars to file birth, death and fetal death records electronically. 
  • Changes the reporting requirements for circuit courts when it comes to marriage and divorce paperwork
  • Extends the timeline for the confidentiality of birth records
  • Changes requirements for people to apply for certification or recertification as EMTs or Paramedics
  • Changes the board requirements for the members of the Hearing Aid Specialists Board (🤷‍♂️)

…Who else loves watching the sausage get made?

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