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Florida lawmakers approve bill that could lead to state's exit from OSHA

The governor’s office has until Jan. 17, 2022, to present its plan for the state.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers have passed a bill that will require the governor's office to present its own vision for a state program similar to OSHA. If approved, the state would essentially leave the federal program.

After being approved by House members Wednesday morning, senators passed the bill (HB 5B) later in the evening. Senators voted 23-13, mostly along party lines.

Under the bill, Florida can now create its own plan for occupational safety for all employees. Part of that process would include giving the governor's office $1 million to propose its own version of OSHA. However, the state would not be fully 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 necessarily mean Florida will be exempt from federal vaccine mandates.

The whole process of creating a plan, acquiring funding and receiving federal approval could take anywhere from two to five years.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the move is an appropriate response to how "heavy-handed" OSHA has been with its federal vaccine mandate.

"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.

The bill now awaits the governor's signature.