Orange County mayor Jerry Demings blasted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over his executive order overruling all local coronavirus mandates in Florida. In a letter issued Monday night, Demings accused the state's top exec of playing stooge to a larger GOP strategy meant to "usurp the authority of Democrat-led urban counties and cities across America."
DeSantis made a big show of signing an executive order effectively rendering all local emergency coronavirus measures moot on May 3, during a visit to St. Petersberg. The order is essentially a stop-gap measure, meant to override all local authority over coronavirus-combating mandates ahead of a just-passed law that would grant the Republican controlled legislature and executive branch the power to overrule local authorities. That bill takes effect on July 1.
“I am not surprised,” Demings wrote of DeSantis' haste. “He first indicated that the order would not take effect until July 1, 2021, and then quickly changed it to be ‘effective immediately.’ He then offered new language that invalidates a local government’s ability to take action during a public health emergency.”
Demings shared his belief that the governor failed to lead at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, creating the very patchwork of local orders that his executive order overturns.
“Governor DeSantis has been slow to act in responding to the pandemic, which has caused local elected officials (mayors) to take action to fill the void and keep their residents safe,” Demings said.
The Orange County mayor who has publicly clashed with Tallahassee several times over the course of the pandemic ultimately sees DeSantis' move as playing into a larger plot to take power out of the hands of local authorities, particularly in Democrat or progressive-leaning cities.
“When I ask myself, ‘What is really the purpose of the governor’s actions?’ I conclude that his actions are part of a larger partisan strategy by the Republican Party to usurp the authority of Democrat-led urban counties and cities across America. We expect better from the governor of Florida,” he said.
Demings appeared ready to call DeSantis' bluff. In the statement, he said Orange County would carry on with measures to keep residents safe from the spread of coronavirus.
"Orange County Government will continue to review its statutory authority and will respond accordingly," he wrote. "I will continue to make decisions in the best interest of their health, safety and welfare and will not wait on the governor to tell me what to do."
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