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A Sharper Insight: What Florida's special legislative session means for the state

The state's fight to block OSHA's rule may not work, but local rules for businesses and schools are likely to.

TAMPA, Fla — Gov. Ron DeSantis is promising to protect the rights of Floridians in a special legislative session on Nov. 15.

In a press conference Monday morning in Zephyrhills, DeSantis said a handful of bills had been proposed to stop OSHA's vaccine rule for businesses with 100 employees or more, local businesses from enacting their own mandates, schools from enforcing vaccines, masks or quarantines if a student is healthy and vaccine passports in the state.

10 Tampa Bay went to four experts for a sharper insight into how the session could impact the state. The first two are from Stetson University College of Law.

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Stetson University Law Experts

"We have a classic constitutional conundrum," Ciara Torres-Spelliscy with Stetson said.

She said a rule like OSHA's is legally-based on previous rulings from the Supreme Court.

"In a case called king from 1922, the Supreme Court upheld vaccine mandates," Torres-Spelliscy said. "Then, in a later case, in 1944, the supreme court also made it clear that religious exemptions don't extend to putting the community at risk of their health or even of death."

She and her colleague from Stetson Law, Louis Virelli, say the state's challenge on OSHA's rule may not hold up, but any new laws passed in the special session for businesses and schools could stand.

"They're both making choices that are limits on people's freedom," Virelli said. "Everything that government does is a limit on somebody's choice. Those decisions wouldn't be affected by what's going on with the OSHA mandate or the Department of Human Service's rule about health care workers being vaccinated. The state of Florida has the right to regulate its own businesses, as long as it doesn't conflict with valid federal law."

Meanwhile, doctors from USF Health say safety measures are still needed and would be beneficial.

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USF Health experts

"The problem is, we let our guard down last year, and right about this time the thing started ticking up," Dr. Michael Teng said. "If you look at our national numbers, we're not going that much down anymore."

He's concerned an uptick abroad will make its way to the U.S. as it has in the past.

"They're having the beginning of a fourth wave, at the same time that we are opening up for international travel," Teng said. "This is not a great thing to try to prevent people from getting the vaccine."

The doctors say the state's herd immunity needs to be the highest it can be to prevent another wave of the virus.

"There are people out there who are not going to be able to take the vaccine," Dr. Tom Unnasch said. "They might be allergic to a component in the vaccine or they do take the vaccine and it doesn't work. In order for us to protect those people, we all have to do the right thing and get vaccinated to make sure that we're not the one who's going to be giving them this virus."