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Florida lawmakers want to limit state surgeon general's emergency powers

Under a proposed bill, Florida's surgeon general will not be able to mandate vaccines during a public health emergency.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A pair of bills making their way through Florida's legislature during the state's special session are aimed at limiting what the state surgeon general can do during a public health emergency. 

Both Senate and House committees have voted favorably on respective measures (HB 7B/SB 8B) that would prevent the surgeon general from mandating vaccines during an emergency. 

The original rule was passed in 2002 when lawmakers granted the state surgeon general to exercise emergency powers, which included vaccine mandates, "by any means necessary." Lawmakers say the measure was approved following security concerns after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. There were also concerns of a bioterrorist attack - during that period of time letters laced with anthrax were sent across the country, resulting in five deaths. 

The authority has never been exercised in the state's history. However, Sen. Aaron Bean (R. - District 4) says its very existence is a problem.

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

"We're in a special session to fix problems. This is a problem," Bean said. "It is out there. I want to fix it."

Despite stripping the surgeon general's ability to mandate vaccines, the legislation keeps every other emergency power untouched. The surgeon general can still forcefully quarantine, test and treat anyone during a public health emergency.

10 Tampa Bay reached out to the Florida Department of Health for current State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo's thoughts on the proposed legislation. DOH said that it could not "comment on any pending legislation."

Ladapo was appointed to the post of Florida surgeon general by DeSantis in September.

RELATED: Democratic lawmakers call for withdrawal of state surgeon general's nomination over mask refusal

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