DeSantis threatens cities with fines for vaccine mandates

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has threatened local governments with $5,000 fines per violation for requiring their employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus that has overrun hospitals across the state

Local municipalities, such as Orange County and the city of Gainesville, potentially face millions of dollars in cumulative fines for implementing a requirement that their employees get a COVID-19 vaccine, the Republican governor said.

Many of the municipalities requiring employees to get vaccinated offer exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

Gainesville spokesperson Shelby Taylor said the city stood by its decision.

“It is our belief that as an employer we retain the right to require vaccination as a condition of employment," Taylor said in an email.

At a news conference, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, a Democrat, said that he believed many of the decisions the Republican governor makes are politically motivated and that the county “would deal" with DeSantis' threat, either through the courts or another manner.

“It could be a lot of money, yes, not question about it," Demings said. “At the end of the day, it is our goal to protect the people in our greater community, to keep them safe, which is a fundamental role of government."

DeSantis is running for reelection next year and is widely seen as a potential candidate to be the GOP's presidential nominee in 2024.

Earlier this year, DeSantis signed legislation prohibiting proof of vaccination in order to get services from businesses or governments. He also issued an order preventing local governments from imposing restrictions meant to stop the spread of the virus.

DeSantis' remarks on Monday were his latest throwing down the gauntlet at local authorities' efforts to implement COVID-19 measures. The state Department of Education has docked the salaries of school board members in Alachua and Broward counties for defying the governor by implementing mask mandates. A total of 13 school boards currently are ignoring the mask mandate ban.

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