What authority do local leaders have now that Florida is in Phase 3 of coronavirus reopening?

News 6 legal analyst Steven Kramer weighs in

Florida’s first full weekend in phase 3 is underway after Governor Ron DeSantis gave businesses the green light to reopen on Friday.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Florida’s first full weekend in phase 3 is underway after Governor Ron DeSantis gave businesses the green light to reopen on Friday.

Some businesses are already taking advantage of the relaxed rules and adjusting to allow increased capacity.

How much authority do local governments have to implement COVID-19 orders now that the state is in phase 3? We asked News 6 legal analyst Steven Kramer.

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“When you get down to this issue between city and county rules versus state rules, state laws, and gubernatorial orders, you get into this issue of preemption,” Kramer said. “And preemption is, ‘Does the state supersede the local authority?’ And in all likely hood that is going to be the case.”

Kramer said the governor’s latest executive order does three things. The order states local authorities cannot issue COVID-19 orders that prevent businesses from operating or stop people from working.

It also requires restaurants to open at least half capacity, but Kramer said that doesn’t mean local governments can’t set limitations.

“If local authorities want to go anywhere between 50 and 100 [percent] they can do that, but if a local government is going to restrict a business to less than 100% they’ve got to look at the economic impact and they’ve got to explain why this limitation makes sense,” Kramer said.

The order also eliminates any COVID-19 related penalties and fines.

It does not directly address mask mandates. Kramer said the governor’s order leaves that up to businesses and local leaders.

“I don’t see anything in this order that prevents local justifications from imposing mask requirements,” he said. “It just prevents local jurisdictions from imposing fines and penalties in line with those mask orders.”

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said on Friday they are reviewing the order, including what authority they have locally.

“You know we are going to do what we need to do on a local level to keep our citizens safe. It is just that simple to me,” Demings said.

Friday’s announcement caught some local government leaders by surprise. Demings criticized the governor for what he called a lack of communication with local leaders

Kramer said the governor is not required to notify local authorities before issuing an executive order.

“There’s nothing that mandates the governor to coordinate with local agencies or local governments. That’s more of a matter of etiquette or preference rather than something required of the governor,” Kramer said.