Horowitz: Florida Gov. DeSantis leads as other Republican governors drag their feet

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Why do we only have one governor who is consistently fighting for individual liberty on the issues of our time?

Given that the 100 days of mask-wearing Biden prescribed turned into a joke – with cases rising in states with mandates and falling in those without them – one would think every red state governor would commit to permanently blocking COVID fascism. While many Republican governors have loosened restrictions, most have not committed to ending them permanently and ensuring that nothing like this can happen again. Moreover, few of them are truly fighting the growing trend of colleges and businesses illegally requiring vaccines.

Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill (S.B. 2006) that will dramatically alter how pandemic orders are promulgated in the state going forward. Unlike other governors who fought the legislatures on limiting executive authority, DeSantis embraced the opportunity to promote liberty at the expense of his own power. He also went a step further. To bridge the gap between now and when the bill takes effect on July 1, he signed a companion executive order today that will suspend all remaining COVID-19 orders from local jurisdictions throughout the state. This includes all remaining mask mandates.

Most importantly, stripping localities of the ability to apply emergency orders will likely block school districts from requiring students to wear masks, effectively immediately. Last month, the Department of Education already announced guidelines to end the school mask mandate for the next academic year.

The governor also announced that there will be a complete clemency for any individual or business cited by a locality for violating COVID restrictions last year.

The long-term reforms included in the bill DeSantis signed today include the following:

  • Will continue to allow a governor to declare an emergency up to 60 days at a time, but not longer without affirmative support from the legislature.
  • Allows House and Senate to override any emergency by joint resolution even before 60 days.
  • Allows local subdivisions to create emergency orders for only up to seven days at a time.
  • Any extension of local orders must be approved by the local governing body and can only be done for seven days at a time for a maximum of 42 days. This would prevent health departments from running counties administratively or even local bodies from having mask mandates for a year, as was done in Miami.
  • Allows governor to override any local order if deemed too restrictive to liberties.
  • Assumes all schools and businesses should remain open during an emergency if they
  • can maintain safety protocols, and governor must provide explanation why it is
  • necessary to close them if not.
  • Bans vaccine passports by government, businesses, and schools as a condition of entry
  • or enrollment. The governor already banned them in his executive order on April 2, but this bill would make his order permanent. Under the bill, those officials who require vaccination could face a $5,000 penalty.

Very few states have passed laws this aggressive. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and the Chamber of Commerce watered down a bill blocking businesses and schools from requiring a vaccine in order to obtain service. The final bill was limited just to government actors. However, the bill barring all state and local mask mandates forever in future pandemics did become law. Under Florida’s law, a locality can still impose a mask mandate during a future pandemic for up to seven days unless the governor nullifies it. North Dakota passed a bill denying only state officials the power to impose mask mandates. Otherwise, very few red states have limited the ability of this illogical and inhumane practice to rear its ugly head again next flu season.

Republicans control 23 state governments the way they control Florida. Why are these victories so few and far between?

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