By Ryan Dailey, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — Saying that he and allies have “embraced the science” of vaccine effectiveness, Gov. Ron DeSantis this week issued directives canceling local coronavirus emergency orders.
“That is an anti-science posture, to say that we need all these restrictions, even with mass vaccination,” DeSantis said during a bill-signing event at the tiki hut-style outdoor patio at The Big Catch at Salt Creek, a St. Petersburg restaurant.
The governor issued an executive order mandating that, effective July 1, “any emergency order issued by a political subdivision due to the COVID-19 emergency which restricts the rights or liberties of individuals or their businesses is invalidated.” He also issued an executive order that went into effect immediately and suspended “all local COVID-19 restrictions and mandates on individuals and businesses.”
“I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point, if you’re saying that, you really are saying you don’t believe in the vaccines. You don’t believe in the data, you don’t believe in the science,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis made the announcement about the local-government orders as he signed an emergency-management bill (SB 2006) that includes a permanent ban on what have become known as COVID-19 vaccine “passports.” Also, the bill limits the authority of cities and counties in future health-care crises.
“The legislation creates a default legal presumption that during any emergency, our businesses should be free from government mandates to close, and our schools should remain open for in-person instruction for our children,” DeSantis said.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, a Democrat, was quick to criticize DeSantis’ executive orders. Kriseman held a news conference at the same restaurant DeSantis used as a backdrop for announcing the executive orders and signing the emergency-management bill.
“I do know that a large-scale event order that the county has in place, that we have in place, the (order) requiring the wearing of masks indoors, the six-foot separation of tables indoors, the maintaining of social distancing that we have in place, all goes away. All of it,” Kriseman said.
Kriseman also rejected DeSantis’ argument that keeping restrictions in place is unnecessary based on the number of fully vaccinated Floridians.
“We’re not even at 50 percent vaccination yet in Pinellas County, let alone the rest of the state. If that’s the case, then why isn’t the CDC ‘no more masks?’” Kriseman said, referring to guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
JUST AMONG FRIENDS
DeSantis took his road show to West Palm Beach on Thursday to sign an elections overhaul passed by the Legislature.
The governor drew cheers from Republican lawmakers and his supporters who were on hand. But the bill immediately drew legal challenges, and DeSantis faced criticism for giving “exclusive” access to Fox News for the signing event.
After what Republicans and Democrats agree was a successfully run 2020 election, DeSantis and GOP lawmakers made a priority of the bill (SB 90), saying it was aimed at adding “integrity” to elections.
The new law will allow election supervisors to use drop boxes at early voting sites and “permanent” branch offices, so long as the boxes are staffed by their employees. Among other changes, the bill will require voters to request mail-in ballots more frequently than in the past.
The law also takes aim at ballot “harvesting,” which involves people and groups being able to collect and deliver ballots for voters. DeSantis touted the new restriction to the hosts of “Fox & Friends” as the program broadcast the sole live feed of the governor and supporters, while local media were barred from entering the West Palm Beach venue.
“We’re not going to let political operatives go and get satchels of votes and dump them in some drop box,” DeSantis told the Fox News hosts.
A coalition of opponents, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matter Fund Inc. and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, quickly filed a lawsuit in federal court in Tallahassee, contending that the bill violates First Amendment rights and would place an “undue burden on the right to vote.”
The Florida State Conference of the NAACP, Disability Rights Florida and Common Cause also filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the bill is unconstitutional and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
THIRD TIME’S A CHARM
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on Tuesday launched a third gubernatorial bid — the second as a Democrat — as he threw his hat into the ring to try to defeat DeSantis in 2022.
The 64-year-old Crist announced his latest campaign in St. Petersburg and unveiled its theme: “Florida For All.”
“The deck is stacked against the middle class, aided and abetted by Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Republican allies in Tallahassee,” Crist said. “This is a governor who doesn’t listen, who doesn’t care and doesn’t think about you.”
Crist is no stranger to Florida politics, having been elected as a Republican state senator, education commissioner and attorney general before getting the keys to the governor’s mansion, where he served as a Republican from 2007 to 2011. After a failed independent bid for the U.S. Senate in 2010, he unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for governor in 2014 and was elected to the U.S. House in 2016.
Crist could have two formidable challengers in the Democratic primary, as Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando are widely expected to run.
Fried said Tuesday she had “communications” with Crist and indicated she would rather see him run for re-election to his congressional seat.
“It is a time when we need his voice and his vote up in Washington D.C.,” Fried said. “His seat is one that only probably Charlie Crist can hold on to. So, I’d really like to have encouraged him to stay in Congress. But, certainly today is Charlie’s day, and I wish him the best of luck.”
STORY OF THE WEEK: Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended local-government coronavirus emergency orders on Monday, as he signed a bill that makes permanent his ban on COVID-19 vaccine “passports” and limits the authority of cities and counties in future health-care crises.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “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 by locking our citizens down.” Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby.
@ tony. No it was done by Florida after Parkland. Technically Scott though. Point being Desantis made us even less free while making us more free in some ways. Mixed bag.
The mile long gas lines presently on Capital Circle, unsecured borders, government law enforcement targeting whistleblowers to protect pedophiles because you’re the son of a president, a president with dementia, unspeakable bio-weapon unleashed by the Chinese Communist Party with collusion with Big Tech and the liberals who committed unspeakable acts onto humanity, and the list goes on and on. Thanks to all the liberal secretaries of state and Democrats who participated in illegal voting… your Day of Reckoning will come.
The China Bio-Weapon Flu Scamdemic AND $5 a-gallon gas…
… gee, thanks Joe!
@ Jon… Libertarian is like PETA… they have some genuine concerns and sincere intentions, but then they whine about rats being used to find a cure for cancer. And since we’re doing the “for the record” thing, I’m registered NPA.
I get the whole “if you can die for your country” thing. And frankly, I agree with that premise. But there are many instances within our laws today that conflict with that entire premise… notwithstanding the “scientific” reality that the human brain isn’t fully developed until near the age of 24.
The China Bio-Weapon Flu Scamdemic has done, and continues to do, irreparable damage to our country, our economy, and most certainly our children. Further adding to the damaging of the braincells of our youth, is not the best of directions to assure a successful future of our Republic, in my opinion. Some restraint is reasonable.
18 not being able to buy a Drink has been around for Years. 18 not being able to buy a Riffle, well, that was recent BUT it was done by the Democrats in DC.
Lol, listen to yourselves. For the record, I’m libertarian. I thought it was obvious from my focus on LIBERTY.
Edward, 18 year olds are adults, not children. If they can enlist and die for their country, they can vape, smoke, drink, and buy a rifle in it. Which is now ILLEGAl thanks in part to desantis.
Your statement is a Democratic Party operative canned response and a rather poor one at that because it is a desperate attempt to manufacture a flaw..
If you were really concerned about humanity you would question the organized voting schemes in the last election and why the FBI is going after a whistleblower instead of the pedophile.
And please spare us the race card as the word race is a made-up word and has nothing to do with science. There is only one race… The human race.
@ Jon… DeSantis is quite consistent actually. The China Weapon Flu Scamdemic is and has always been just that; a scam to test mass malleability, maximize the profits of the chosen, and gain power of the people. As for vaping, the Governor’s actions are about protecting children and young adults from the influence of the youth-focused marketing tactics used by the producers of the poisonous product.
Our Gov. correctly knows when to take the lefts sacred cow “Science” and ram it up the left’s backside. Good job Gov. DeSaintis.
And imagine how whizzed Nikki Weed is gonna be when she finds out Charlie’s gonna court Florida’s sexual deviant vote with a Christ/Gillum ticket.
Maybe Nikki can find a deviant of her own to run with!!!
Buckle up Florida the left side of the Governors race is gonna be totally disgusting.
Desantis is a mixed bag. Does away with covid restrictions one day. Restricts vaping the next. Either adults are free to take risk or they arent. Which is it?
“The 64-year-old Crist announced his latest campaign in St. Petersburg and unveiled its theme: “Florida For All.”” …………………………… THAT’S the problem. The US is NOT for ALL and Florida SURELY IS NOT also. The US and Florida are FOR US Citizens. When you start to care about the US Citizens, our Veterans, our Homeless and our Children, let me know.
Chuckie will drop out of the race before the primary.
Chuck Christ is a textbook example of the “Political Swamp Creature”. He’s been living off the back of taxpayers for so long, he is now simply incapable of doing anything else. And what does his beard have to say about this? We all know Chuck got married to hide his true preferences and proclivities. She only agreed because she wanted to be a member of the most exclusive country club (US Senate) in the world. Instead, Chuck had to settle for a membership in the most criminal money laundering enterprise (House of Representatives) in the world.
Now Chuck and his beard want to slither back into the Florida taxpayer funded Governors Mansion and lifestyle… and a attempt to complete the ever-sought-after “quadruple dip” on the taxpayers dime. Heck, even Dementia Joe has only reach the “triple dip” bar.
Sorry Chuck… Thanks to the good work and strong courage of Governor DeSantis, Florida does work for all people… while you’ve spent your entire adult life working for only one person… Chuck and Chuck, For the, ummm, well, Chuck.
Can’t seem to be rid of Crist. Why doesn’t he go bother some other state?