Florida House set to pass measure withdrawing state from OSHA oversight

After rejecting a series of Democratic amendments, the Florida House on Tuesday prepared to pass a bill that could be a first step toward the state regulating worker safety and moving away from oversight by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

The Republican-controlled House is expected to pass the measure (HB 5B) on Wednesday, the third day of a special legislative session called by Gov. Ron DeSantis to take aim at vaccination and mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The bill would direct DeSantis to develop a plan for the state to take control of worker safety and health issues. The governor would be required to report back to the Legislature by Jan. 17. 

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Ultimately, the federal government would have to sign off on a state plan. 

Sponsor Ardian Zika, R-Land O’ Lakes, said the state is faced with "federal overreach" during the pandemic and that it is in Florida’s interest to consider moving to a state worker-safety plan. 

The proposed Democratic amendments addressed issues such as requiring that any state plan would not conflict with emergency temporary standards or other worker-safety standards issued by OSHA. 

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"It just makes sense. If we’re going to do it, do it right," Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, said. 

The amendments were rejected in voice votes. 

The bill came after OSHA issued a rule this month that would require tens of millions of workers nationwide to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be regularly tested and wear masks. Florida is challenging the rule in federal court. 

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A House analysis said 21 states and Puerto Rico operate plans that cover private and government employees. Another five states and the U.S. Virgin Islands operate plans that cover government employees, according to the analysis. 

But Zika said it could take two to three years for the federal government to approve a Florida plan. 

The Senate is considering an identical bill (SB 6-B).