Fla. governor suspends all local COVID emergency orders, signs bill handcuffing cities, counties on future restrictions

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis puts on his mask during a news conference at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, on February 26. Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was immediately suspending all local COVID-19 emergency orders by executive order on Monday.

“I think that’s the evidence-based thing to do,” DeSantis said. “I think folks that are saying they need to be policing people at this point, if you’re saying that, then you’re really saying you don’t believe in the vaccines.”

DeSantis also signed SB 2006, a bill passed last month that would permanently handcuff what both governors and local mayors can do amid pandemics. The new law gives the Legislature more power to overrule any emergency mandates or restrictions by the governor, the governor the authority to overrule cities and counties, and city and county commissions the power to overrule mayors.

The bill, which takes effect on July 1, would also ban businesses from requiring so-called “vaccination passports,” putting into law DeSantis’s executive order from last month.

He said Monday’s order was a stop-gap measure until the new law fully takes effect on July 1.

The order comes after DeSantis already waived all fines on individuals and businesses.

The new law states that it was “the intent of the Legislature to minimize the negative effects of an extended emergency, such as a pandemic or another public health emergency.”

Any emergency order issued by a city or county has to be “limited in duration, applicability, and scope in order to reduce any infringement on individual rights or liberties to the greatest extent possible,” it states.

Any such order would automatically expire after seven days and would have to be extended by city or county commissions every week for 42 days.

At any time, the law states, the governor can invalidate any local emergency order.

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