News & Politics

'You're Damn Right I Overruled Forced Mandates:' What a Wild Week in Florida Politics Can Teach America

AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

The past week — four days, actually, from Nov. 15 to 18 — demonstrated how Florida has led the pushback against federal overreach and the Biden administration’s tyrannical mandates. Between a special legislative session called by Governor Ron DeSantis, a medical freedom rally that drew over a thousand people to the capitol steps in Tallahassee, the feeble response from the likely Democratic frontrunner in the gubernatorial race, and a signing ceremony in which DeSantis reiterated liberty as his foundational principle, Florida sets a strong example for other states for becoming less purple and more aligned with the U.S. Constitution.

And yes, as PJ Media’s Kevin Downey Jr. reported, the signing ceremony took place in Brandon, Florida. Many chants broke out during the ceremony.

Asked by a mainstream reporter about it, DeSantis replied, “Brandon is a great, all-American city.”

Let’s review the significance of this week in chronological order.

Monday: Ron DeSantis Calls the Legislature Into Emergency Session

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis called the legislature into emergency session on November 15.  Upon announcing the session on October 29, he said:

“Your right to earn a living should not be contingent upon COVID shots,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “We have somehow gone from 15 days to slow the spread to 3 jabs to keep your job. In Florida, we believe that the decision whether or not to get a COVID shot is a choice based on individual circumstances, so we are litigating against the Biden Administration and will be passing legislation in this Special Session to protect Florida jobs and protect parents’ rights when it comes to masking and quarantines. The health, education, and wellbeing of our children are primarily the responsibility of parents. As long as I am Governor, parents in Florida will play a strong role in determining what their kids are learning and how they’re treated in school.”

He also announced a lawsuit against the Biden administration for its rule mandating vaccines for federal government contractors (from the same press release):

Yesterday, Governor DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody announced a lawsuit against the Biden Administration’s unconstitutional vaccine mandates, making Florida the first state to bring a comprehensive legal action against the federal contractor vaccine mandate.
 
“Governor DeSantis has called this Special Session because we must stand up for the rights and liberties of Floridians not only through litigation, but also through legislation,” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. “We are looking forward to collaborating with Senate President Simpson and House Speaker Sprowls to provide protections for Floridians of all ages, in the workforce and in the classroom.” 

Most liberty-loving Floridians cheered the strong stance of fighting back against the Biden administration, but some thought the proposed bills actually didn’t go far enough.

Still, the bills and the lawsuit represent a flag in the ground. The fight against federal overreach has begun in Florida.

Tuesday: Medical Freedom Rally

At 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16, a couple dozen groups came together to hold a rally for medical freedom on the courtyard in front of the legislature building. Organizers estimated around 1,500 people showed up in the middle of a work day, from all over the state. Some groups had buses bring people to Tallahassee from places as far away as Ocala, Orlando, St. Pete, and even Miami. Highlights included Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez giving a full-throated defense of liberty in the face of federal tyranny.

Another speaker, a licensed mental health professional, said, “the tools of fear and shame are harmful, and potentially long-lasting.” She went on to describe the patients she’s seen over the past year-plus with an overactive amygdala — the region of the brain that causes the fear response. When the amygdala is overactive, the areas of the brain that govern rational thought, critical thinking, and logic are all suppressed. She described this response as very useful for a federal government hell-bent on compliance among the population.

Dr. John Littell also spoke, describing the results of his Global COVID Summit a week and a half prior in Ocala. He went on to decry the treatment of many licensed medical professionals he knew who had been fired from their positions in hospitals and clinics for the sin of attempting early treatment protocols on patients to avoid further COVID-19 hospitalizations.

A fire chief named Steve Davis spoke out over being fired for refusing to assist Orange County in enforcing the vaccine mandate on firefighters in his department.

The theme was the same throughout — health care workers hailed as heroes in 2020 have faced discipline in 2021 for following their conscience and doing their best by their patients and coworkers.

 

The legislature continued to debate the bills on the floor, likely able to hear the rally outside their windows.

Wednesday: Anti-Mandate Bills Pass

Prior to the end of the session, State Rep. Jason Shoaf (R-07) echoed the theme of the session, telling PJ Media, “I’m confident that the Republican controlled Florida House of Representatives will continue to pass legislation protecting the liberty of all Floridians.”

On Wednesday, that’s exactly what happened, as the session was able to end in the middle of the day with four new bills passed:

  • SB 2B / HB 1B COVID-19 Mandates: Requires employers to add more opt-out options than the federal government rule and created stiff fines for companies who violated them
  • SB 4B / HB 3B Public Records/Employer COVID-19 Vaccination Policies: Shields from public view records of employee complaints about vaccine exemptions
  • SB 6B / HB 5B Florida Occupational Safety and Health State Plan: Asks the Governor’s Office to create a plan for a state-level version of the federal OSHA and provides funds
  • SB 8B / HB 7B Vaccinations During Public Health Emergencies: Removes the State Health Officer’s ability to order the vaccination of individuals upon declaration of a public health emergency.

DeSantis framed the exemptions bill as covering almost every Floridian; one exemption or another covers virtually every member of the state. Removing the ability of the State Health Officer — namely, Fla. Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo — to mandate vaccines returns that power rightly to the legislature. Ladapo supported this bill. Maybe the most important bill, the Fla. Occupational Safety and Health State Plan, will remove Florida altogether from federal OSHA oversight and return that power to where it belongs — at the state level.

Could they have gone further to protect the liberty of Floridians and the sovereignty of the state? Yes, but this is an enormous first step.

Thursday: Signing Ceremony in Brandon

Yeah, Brandon.

REPORTER: Governor, it’s obvious to a lot of the people in the crowd that they believe you chose Brandon because of the thing that goes around on certain websites. Is this why you came to Brandon because of the trolling of the Biden Administration?

DESANTIS: So I think that Brandon, Florida is a great, all-American city and that the people here are fantastic. And I can tell you, my only negative on Brandon was when I was growing up playing baseball, they always used to beat us every year. But now I think as governor, I’m really proud to be able to do.

I want to thank Brandon Honda for hosting us here today. And we’re proud to be able to make a stand for freedom in Brandon, Florida,

QUESTION: Biden Administration’s policies, you put these into law. You believe these are bad for Floridians. But cities like Tampa and St. Pete have tried to make policies that you’ve made that they think are bad for them. Why is it okay for you to violate the conservative tenant of home rule, but it’s bad when the Biden Administration …

DESANTIS: So first of all, this idea that somehow conservatism is about like local school boards. It’s the United States of America, not the United school boards or county commissions of America. So the states are the primary vehicles to protect people’s freedoms, their health, their safety, their welfare in our constitutional system. What Biden is doing is not constitutional. There has never been a federal vaccine mandate imposed on the general public. I hear people talk about they do things in the military. Yeah. When I was in the military, they used to give me all kind of stuff.

Honestly, I wish I would’ve thought, but I mean, whatever it was, but that’s much different than regulating the military and then imposing it on civilians in society. It’s never been done before. They don’t have the power to do it. There’s no federal police power. States have the police power. So that’s from a constitutional perspective, it is worlds, worlds apart. Now, some people say, “Hey, these local governments wanted to lock down businesses. They wanted to force mandates. They wanted to keep the kids locked out of school.”

Yeah, you’re damn right I overruled them on that because they were wrong. And the fact of the matter is you don’t have the right to do wrong. And if I had not stepped in last year and made sure that these local governments couldn’t lock you down, couldn’t mandate, we wouldn’t let them, fine. We had kids in school last year because of me, not because of them. And that’s just the bottom line. And so people can say, “Is it the job of somebody that’s elected to look out for the liberties of everyone in the state?”

Or do you just say, “Hey, if someone’s violating your freedom, we shouldn’t do anything.” The fact of the matter is if we would’ve let them lock the kids out of school last year, we would’ve paid the piper on that for years and years in this state. If we had let them lock down businesses and restrict and do all that, we would have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. So we had to stand up for people’s liberties, their livelihoods, their right to work, people’s right to own a business, and it was the right thing to do.

But what Biden is doing, he does not have … He even admitted he doesn’t have the authority to do it. Psaki admitted that they don’t have the authority to do it. And in fact, even six months ago, they were all saying, of course you never mandate. Of course, you never mandate. And so the question is, do we actually have a constitution that constrains people like Biden or is it just when he loses patience, he can do whatever the hell he wants to? No. I’ll take the constitution. Thank you very much.

 

DeSantis made a point to thank Operation Freedom of Choice, a group of Florida firefighters that describes itself as a “non-profit organization comprised of active and retired firefighters from multiple Fire Departments across the entire state of Florida who have decided to stand up and fight together against these tyrannical [mandates].”

Conclusions

Ron DeSantis has shown governors across America how to do it. His bold stance in favor of individual liberty and the constitution, along with his strong messaging, creates a blueprint for Republicans everywhere to show fearless leadership. One could say the special session didn’t go far enough, but as DeSantis noted, a special session became necessary as the Biden mandates were set to take effect Jan. 4. The regular legislative session starts Jan. 11, so Florida will have another opportunity to pass bills safeguarding liberty instead of shielding government from its citizens.

Meanwhile, DeSantis’ likely Democratic challenger, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, had a no-good, awful, very bad week. Earlier in the month, the Democratic Governor’s Association decided not to back any candidate challenging DeSantis. This week, we saw why. DeSantis announced earlier this month that, for the first time ever, registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in Florida. It’s precisely because of the leadership being shown by DeSantis — along with some serious economic activity that’s bucking the national stagflation trend under the Brandon … er … Biden Administration. Fried didn’t help herself with silly accusations that DeSantis bullied legislators into doing his will in the special session, given the majority of Republicans in both houses:

Shortly after concluding a press conference to bring attention to Rep. Dan Daley’s “Jamie’s Law” gun legislation that would mandate a background check for individuals attempting to buy ammunition, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) spoke to Tallahassee reporters, where she accused Gov. Ron DeSantis of bullying lawmakers if they did not conform to his political and legislative agendas.

“It’s his way or the highway. He’s very one-sided, he forgets he’s governor of the entire state of Florida. And that means he needs to listen to all of his constituents,” said Commissioner Fried.

Commissioner Fried stated that she has heard about DeSantis’s alleged “retribution and his retaliation against” detractors from those working in the Capitol.

“I have heard-his retribution and his retaliation against someone who goes against him. That’s not leadership. That is very authoritarian,” added Fried.

Fried then went on to explain that DeSantis bullies his way through the Republican-led legislature, saying that DeSantis threatens legislators and lobbyists his veto power, and has targeted certain legislators, presumably Democrats.

DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, responded by calling Fried a conspiracy theorist.

A veto is now a bullying tactic? One wonders if Fried has the chops to make any sort of serious run at the governor’s mansion.

Meanwhile, Florida gets less purple all the time. Lesson: when Republican office holders show genuine leadership, voters flock to them.