Just hours after the roundly publicized “Safer at Home” Order, Florida Governor DeSantis quietly signed another Order which strikes another blow for home rule, sows confusion, and shows a distinct lack of openness and transparency.
Local governments are left without the power to specify what activities are non-essential or unlawful within their own borders (such as largely attended worship services). Share this with your neighbors as the media is not reporting on it.
Originally published in the Tampa Bay Times on April 2, 2020
TAMPA BAY TIMES 4/2/2020 2 P.M.
Ron DeSantis quietly signed second executive order targeting local coronavirus restrictions
The order says the statewide stay-at-home order ‘shall supersede any conflicting official action or order issued by local officials.’
Hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order Wednesday, he quietly signed a second order to override restrictions put in place by local governments to halt the spread of coronavirus.
The second order states that new state guidelines that take effect Friday morning “shall supersede any conflicting official action or order issued by local officials in response to COVID-19.” In other words, local governments cannot place any limitations that would be more strict than the statewide guidelines.
Locally, it means Hillsborough County cannot mandate churches close their doors, a rule that drew national attention after a Tampa megachurch held two Sunday services, leading to the arrest of the pastor.
The follow up action was taken to “provide clarity,” the order says, however, in practice, it’s a stark reversal from what DeSantis signed earlier in the day. Under that order, cities and counties could not allow activities that the state prohibited but were allowed to put in place tougher stay-at-home orders.
DeSantis signed the second order at 6:36 p.m. — just five hours after he signed the statewide stay-at-home directive. But unlike that first action — which DeSantis unveiled at a well-attended press conference that aired on the state’s cable channel and was sent out in a press release — there was no announcement about the signing of the second order or a press release.
Instead, it was quietly added to the governor’s website.
For weeks, DeSantis has resisted calls from local leaders to order a statewide stay-at-home order, insisting that cities and counties knew best how to handle the response.
“We’ve been willing to work with any of the local communities, but I think it’s been a surgical approach,” DeSantis said on March 24. “It’s been an approach that’s been in consultation with these folks.”
Local government officials, who were already scrambling to understand the state’s sweeping and confusing statewide guidelines, were outraged that DeSantis would then override their work. Many counties and cities passed local stay-at-home orders that closely adhered to advice from public health experts on how to halt the spread of the virus.
Under the order DeSantis signed Wednesday, essential activities included attending church services and many outdoor activities, including golfing. It also classified gun and ammo shops, laundromats, hardware stores and pet supply stores as “essential services.”
Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren said it’s now unclear whether churches and synagogues can hold large services with “500 people packed shoulder to shoulder.”
“This has created a lot of confusion,” he said. “For reasons I can’t fathom, the governor is using his power to remove safe guards that Hillsborough County and other counties have put in place to save lives.”
Times staff Writer Divya Kumar contributed to this report. This story is developing.