Photo courtesy Orange County Government, FL/Facebook
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings earlier this week
promised an executive order that would allow the county to impose fees and fines on businesses that repeatedly flout safety guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19 locally. And on Friday, that order arrived.
Frustrated by a number of repeat offenders — mostly bars and nightclubs (footage from a recent concert at Gilt over Thanksgiving even got Orlando some unwanted attention from TMZ
) — becoming increasingly uncooperative with
the county's coronavirus inspection teams and rising COVID-19 numbers in Orange County, Mayor Demings had the county attorney draft an executive order that would impose fines ranging from $500-$1,500 on non-compliant business establishments.
Demings announced that he had signed that executive order (2020-51) on Friday afternoon during the Orange County Government Coronavirus Briefing
True to his word, there are indeed financial penalties laid out in this executive order:
- $500 fines/citations can be issued by law enforcement and code enforcement for "immediate violations"
- $1,000 fines per day issued by a special magistrate
- $5,000 fine per day for repeat violators issued by a special magistrate
- $15,000 fine for violations that are "irreparable or irreversible"
Fines could be levied as early as this weekend — as the effect takes order just after midnight on Sunday, Dec. 6 — on businesses that do not enforce social distancing guidelines or the county's mask mandate.
Demings stressed that this order, and these fines, target only the "few" businesses that are "bad actors," the ones he characterized as acting
like they are concerned about "the personal safety of others," but only caring about their financial "bottom line."
A big question, though, is whether this executive order will put Orange County's local government on a collision course with Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration.
Remember that DeSantis issued an executive order back in September that barred local governments throughout Florida from issuing coronavirus restrictions that were stricter than the state's guidelines, effectively preventing lockdown measures, reduction in capacity at restaurants or bars, etc.
Demings said he was "not worried about any particular conflict" rising from this executive order, via lawsuits from businesses.
Nor is he particularly concerned about the governor's response, one way or the other.
"I have not had any communication with the governor's office regarding this executive order," said Demings. "I really don't feel like I have to go to the governor to ask permission to be the mayor of Orange County."
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