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Gov. Ron DeSantis wants Florida Legislature to limit 'local government pandemic powers'

DeSantis opposed to curfews, 'forever restrictions'
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Posted at 2:04 PM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 14:04:54-05

HIALEAH, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis would like the Florida Legislature to limit the duration that counties and municipalities enact emergency restrictions on residents.

Speaking during a news conference Tuesday in Hialeah, DeSantis was asked about curfews that some South Florida governments have put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"I'm not saying I agree with curfews," DeSantis answered. "I don't. I've never supported a curfew."

Hialeah is located in Miami-Dade County, where a curfew is in effect from midnight to 6 a.m.

Miami Beach during July 2020 curfew
A sparse crowd is on Ocean Drive after an 8 p.m. curfew amid the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, July 24, 2020, in Miami Beach, Fla. A curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. is in effect throughout the entertainment district in Miami Beach.

DeSantis said the executive order he issued in September was intended to "prevent anybody from closing a business or shutting an individual down."

The governor then compared South Florida to other metropolitan regions throughout the country.

"If you look at what's happening in South Florida right now, I mean, this place is booming," he said. "It would not be booming if it were shut down. Los Angeles isn't booming. New York City's not booming. 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."

'Still Open' sign outside restaurant in Coconut Grove, Aug. 6, 2020
A sign reading "Still Open" hangs outside of Atchana's Homegrown Thai restaurant during the coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in the Coconut Grove neighborhood in Miami. Restaurants continue to offer outdoor dining and take-out only, with indoor dining still not permitted in Miami-Dade County.

DeSantis said he expects state lawmakers to "look at local government pandemic powers."

He recalled how, when coronavirus started to emerge in Florida about a year ago, his office was "very much engaged" in that.

"We thought it was potentially very serious, but I don't think anyone at that time thought that there would just be these forever restrictions," DeSantis said. "That's really not the way anything has ever worked in the past before."

DeSantis then said he believes, if local governments enact curfews, "there needs to be a limited duration and it should require some type of legislative sanction."

Florida has been in a state of emergency since March 9, 2020, which DeSantis said is necessary to receive federal reimbursement of funds.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, recently said he intends to file a bill amendment that would limit the governor's emergency powers.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes
State Sen. Jeff Brandes says the bill is a layer of protection against future administrations.

"As the governor, the Legislature can come in and they actually can terminate anything that the governor does, and I think that's absolutely appropriate," DeSantis said. "That should be the case."

But the Legislature hasn't taken any action, DeSantis said, because he's been "very judicious in what we were doing."

DeSantis implemented a stay-at-home order last April, but by September the entire state was reopen.

"We were really using our authority to lift people up rather than to lock people down," DeSantis said.

As for whether he thinks the Legislature will address the issue in the upcoming session, DeSantis simply said, "Stay tuned."