DeSantis suspends COVID-19 restrictions
New bill would allow governor and state legislature to terminate future local emergency orders
“I think that’s the evidence-based thing to do,” DeSantis said during a press conference in St. Petersburg on Monday. He said the executive order was meant to supplement a bill to take effect July 1 which will invalidate all local emergency orders relating to COVID-19.
The state legislature’s bill also empowers the legislature to be able to terminate a state of emergency or any specific order, proclamation, or rule thereunder. That could include a local or statewide state of emergency.
The legislation which will take effect July 1 will allow the the Governor to “at any time, invalidate an emergency order issued by a political subdivision if the Governor determines that such order unnecessarily restricts individual rights or liberties.”
The order does not stop businesses from requiring masks to enter or other decisions by businesses relating to COVID-19.
“We wanted people to be happy living in Florida,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said he believed some localities in the country have gone “insane” with their restrictions. “No one advocated a year-long lockdown,” he said.
DeSantis ordered the canceling of local fines for individuals and businesses in March relating to COVID-19 laws and ordinances said he planned to cancel any other such fines which have been issued by local governments relating to COVID-19 pandemic rules.
“The numbers of the vaccines are better than the clinical trials were,” DeSantis said. “These numbers are about as good as you could possibly hope for.”
DeSantis said his message was “the vaccine protects you. Get vaccinated.”
Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy responded to the proclamation by DeSantis by asking “why have a town council at all if the governor can do it all?”
Murphy said “we have a principle here in Florida called home rule. It’s the reason why there are local communities. We feel we know what is best for our local people. This particular governor doesn’t agree with home rule and wants all the power. He thinks he knows what’s best for everyone and I don’t agree with that. I believe in home rule.”
Murphy said his feelings about home rule stood regardless of the party in pwoer. The town council decided on its own to cancel its mask mandate Monday without knowing the actions DeSantis would take by executive order, he said.
He said the town’s mask mandate “kept people healthy.”
The bill signed by DeSantis on Monday states that neither the state nor local governments can close businesses or keep children out of in-person instruction unless they can satisfy “demanding and continuous justifications.”
DeSantis said “any local emergency order excluding hurricane emergencies” are capped at seven-day increments and can only be extended to a maximum of 42 days. DeSantis said he would be able to invalidate a local emergency order if it “unnecessarily restricts individual rights or liberties.”
An emergency order issued by a political subdivision “must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling public health or safety purpose. Any such emergency order must be limited in duration, applicability, and scope in order to reduce any infringement on individual rights or liberties to the greatest extent possible,” according to a copy of the bill.
State Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Lakeland) said “families are still dealing with covid, we have family members still dying of covid but you have to ultimately weigh the balance of people’s lives and their mental health and the amount of suicides and all of the things that go wrong with locking our citizens down.”
The legislation signed by DeSantis on Monday that was approved by the state legislature also states that if the Governor declares by executive order or proclamation that the emergency requires closure of or restricted in-person attendance at K-12 public schools, the executive order or proclamation must contain specific reasons for those determinations, and he or she must review and reassess the situation regularly.
In response to the order by DeSantis, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman criticized DeSantis for assuming the new powers in messages posted on Twitter.
“Today, in preempting both local governments and businesses from keeping their establishments safe, Ron DeSantis decided he cares not about public health, but power. I’m old enough to remember when Republicans at least pretended to be pro-business and for less government,” Kriseman stated.
“To be clear, cities like St. Pete, Tampa, Orlando, Miami and Miami Beach, saved Florida and the governor’s behind throughout this pandemic,” Kriseman said. “Can you imagine if each city had been led by Ron DeSantis? How many lives would have been lost? What would our economy look like today?”