Florida’s been in a state of emergency for nearly a year. But that’s currently only to get federal funds.
Gov. Ron DeSantis wants state lawmakers to help get life in Florida back to normal, including by restricting cities and counties’ abilities to place lockdowns on residents.
Florida may be open at the state level, but many local orders to mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks remain in place. Speaking from Hialeah in Miami-Dade County, DeSantis expressed his frustrations with lockdowns after he was asked about the county’s nightly midnight curfew.
State lawmakers, including Hialeah Republican Sen. Manny Díaz, will be looking at local governments’ pandemic powers, the Governor said. Lawmakers should look into “just moving on” with some of the emergency orders at the local level.
“I think if a local government’s going to do it, I do think absolutely there needs to be a limited duration and it should require some type of legislative sanction,” DeSantis said.
The Legislature has the power to “terminate” the Governor’s actions, he said, but lawmakers haven’t done so because he was “judicious.”
“We were really using our authority to lift people up rather than to lock people down,” DeSantis said.
Some Republicans, including St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes, want to limit the Governor’s unilateral powers during an emergency. Brandes plans to file legislation that would require at least one other member of the Florida Cabinet to sign off on orders like lockdowns. Zephyrhills Sen. Danny Burgess, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, said his panel should consider the Legislature’s role in a sustained emergency.
However, the effort isn’t an attack against DeSantis but rather a precaution for the future.
Florida has been open since September, when DeSantis lifted all state-level restrictions. The Phase Three order also limited local governments’ abilities to shut down businesses and guaranteed the “right to work” to businesses and workers.
However, the order did not encompass curfews, the Governor said. He has never supported a curfew, he added.
The Governor contrasted South Florida against other cities across the nation that have been shut down.
“Los Angeles isn’t booming. New York City’s not booming,” DeSantis said. “It’s booming here because you can live like a human being, people take precautions, which is great, but you’re not locked down, people aren’t miserable, and I think it’s really remarkable what’s happening.”
No one predicted “forever restrictions,” he added.
Florida has been in a state of emergency since March 9, 2020. Florida implemented a stay-at-home order in April, and within the month, DeSantis announced plans to start reopening the state.
The Sunshine State may have its doors open, but DeSantis has no plan to end the emergency declaration.
“The only emergency I use is to get the reimbursement from FEMA,” he said. “If I don’t have that, then all the stuff we do, we don’t get reimbursement to the state, which obviously, we want from a perspective of just fiscally recouping any losses that we’re doing. But that’s the only, I think, valid reason to have any of that in place at this time.”
Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.