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Florida Senate takes early steps in creating state's own OSHA

The governor's office would be given $1 million to create a plan that ultimately must be federally approved.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers were back at the state's capital on Tuesday for a special legislative session, continuing debate over a handful of bills that seek to combat any COVID-19 vaccine mandates. 

The process for one of those measures, however, could outlast the governor's tenure despite his office taking the lead on it.

Senators are considering a bill (SB6B) that would allow Florida to create a plan for occupational safety for all employees. The governor's office would be given $1 million to propose its own version of OSHA. However, lawmakers admitted the state would not really be free from OSHA's oversight. 

In order for Florida's new rules to be approved, they must first meet the standard OSHA guidelines. From there, lawmakers say Florida can be more stringent in its guidance. But, that doesn't mean Florida will be exempt from federal vaccine mandates. 

The bill is currently in committee. If passed, the full Senate will have a chance to vote on the bill.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, DeSantis said the move is an appropriate response to how "heavy-handed" OSHA has been. 

"These agencies, when they're doing things, you expect this is being done in some factual basis," DeSantis said. "But, if you read that OSHA rule, it's ignorance running amuck."

The governor added that other states have gone through the process of creating their own workplace safety agency. According to OSHA, 28 states have their own OSHA-approved plans — 22 of which cover both private sector and state and local government workers. The last time OSHA certified a state's new rules was Connecticut in 1986. 

Several senators said the bill is a waste of taxpayers' money since the state is already covered by OSHA for no extra cost. Lawmakers also said the process of proposing a plan and having it approved by the federal government could take as long as five years. 

"We don't have to necessarily spend millions of dollars trying to stand up a separate entity, or even a million dollars to investigate the possibility of standing up a separate entity that is more restrictive and will cost us," said Sen. Audrey Gibson (D - District 6). 

A majority of senators in committee eventually voted in favor of the bill, which now heads to the Senate floor. If passed there, then the governor would have to provide a status update of his proposed plan by Jan. 17, 2022. 

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