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Vote strips Florida surgeon general of power to order vaccinations during public health emergencies

The surgeon general has not used the power since it was put in state law in 2002. But the Republican-controlled Legislature moved forward this week with repealing it during a special session that focused on pushing back against vaccination and mask mandates.

Florida lawmakers Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a measure that will strip the state surgeon general of power to order vaccinations during public health emergencies.

The surgeon general has not used the power since it was put in state law in 2002. But the Republican-controlled Legislature moved forward this week with repealing it during a special session that focused on pushing back against vaccination and mask mandates.

Rep. Alex Andrade, a Pensacola Republican who sponsored the measure (HB 7B), said it was an “indictment of the vast abuses of executive power” across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But House Democrats said Republicans were pandering to their conservative political base with the bill.

”There is no urgency here,” Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, said. “There is no urgency to take this power away.”

House members voted 82-34 to pass the bill, and the Senate gave final passage Wednesday night in a 23-13 vote.

It now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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