Florida Gov. Signs Bill Banning Vaccine Passports

By Dave Simpson
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Law360 (May 3, 2021, 9:23 PM EDT) -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday that bans so-called COVID-19 vaccine passports, enshrining into law what he'd previously enacted through an April executive order, according to a release from his office.

Senate Bill 2006 blocks any business or government entity in the Sunshine State from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry, while also blocking local governments from closing businesses or schools, except for in the case of hurricanes.

"This legislation ensures that legal safeguards are in place so that local governments cannot arbitrarily close our schools or businesses," DeSantis said in the release. "In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision."

DeSantis signed his executive order on April 2, stating that vaccine passports "reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy." Moreover, requiring them for taking part in everyday life such as attending a sporting event or going to a restaurant or movie theater "would create two classes of citizens based on vaccination," according to the executive order.

The state Legislature followed suit, codifying the restrictions into S.B. 2006. Legal experts told Law360 last month that the restrictions could wind up in court.

Several businesses had already announced plans to either require vaccine proof or attach it to certain benefits for customers.

The Miami Heat said at the beginning of April that a limited number of fans could enter through a separate entrance and sit closer together in "vaccinated sections" if they presented their Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-issued paper vaccination cards. And on Monday, Norwegian Cruise Line said it would require all guests and crew to be fully vaccinated as part of a plan to resume cruising July 4. The South Beach Wine and Food Festival also had announced plans to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test at its event in May.

Also on Monday, DeSantis signed a pair of new executive orders, which suspend all local emergency orders until July 1. On July 1, local orders will be permanently invalidated by S.B. 2006.

On Monday, Miami Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she was "deeply concerned" with this decision.

"We are still in a public health emergency and our economy has not fully rebounded from crisis," she said in a release. "Fewer than half of our residents have been vaccinated, and we face a growing threat from variants."

State Senate President Wilton Simpson lauded the state for its early reopenings.

"While many states around the country are just now beginning to re-open, under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Florida has been responsibly opening back up over the last year," he said. "Our economy is bouncing back stronger than anyone could have imagined as more and more people flee high tax, high regulation states and chose the freedom we have here in Florida."

--Editing by Bruce Goldman.

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