Gov. DeSantis signs ban on ‘vaccine passports’ requirements by business, schools, agencies

A Carnival cruise ship is docked at PortMiami, one of five Florida seaports where cruiselines operate. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on enforcement of “vaccine passports” by state and local governments or private businesses is now state law.

The governor signed legislation encoding the ban in the Florida Statutes on Monday in St. Petersburg. Previously, he enforced the ban through an executive order he signed on April 2.

The new law takes effect on July 1, although DeSantis’ executive order will remain in effect until then.

DeSantis also signed an executive order suspending all remaining local COVID-related restrictions on the public.

“I think that’s the evidence-based thing to do. I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point — if you’re saying that, you really are saying you don’t believe in the vaccines, you don’t believe in the data, you don’t believe in the science,” he said.

The new law gives governors the authority to suspend local emergency ordinances. It also expands the Legislature’s oversight of emergency orders and authority to cancel them.

Bear in mind, the pandemic is by no means over over. As of Monday, the state had reported that more than 2.2 million people in Florida, including nonresidents, had tested positive for the coronavirus. More than 36,000 Floridians and visitors had dies.

The so-called passports are documents, on paper or on cellphone apps, attesting that the holder has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“It’s not really restricting business or government on that as much as its protecting you, saying you have a right to participate in society regardless of that,” DeSantis said.

In fact, the new law does tie businesses’ hands, declaring that they “may not require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business operations in this state.”

The same goes for schools and government agencies, although the bill does allow them to institute “screening protocols consistent with authoritative or controlling government-issued guidance to protect public health.”

The penalty is fines of up to $5,000 per violation.

The International Airline Travel Association and some ocean cruise lines are encouraging or requiring these documents to ensure safe travel. DeSantis has taken the federal government to court to force resumption of cruise departures from Florida ports.

“They’re not going to be able to do it in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said on Fox News last week.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.