Orange County weighs legal action against state for executive order lifting local COVID-19 restrictions

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County leaders said they’re talking with several other communities on possibly taking legal action against the state after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order lifting local COVID-19 restrictions.

Officials said they’re tired of the governor taking away their ability to govern the people for whom they were elected to work.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said each county in our state is very different. He said he knows how to handle things here a lot better than the governor, who lives in Tallahassee.

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DeSantis surprised a lot of people with a move earlier this week that canceled out any remaining local mask mandates.

It’s not sitting well with Demings.

“We have to have the flexibility to be able to govern for the people who we’re ultimately responsible for,” he said.

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Just a few days before, Demings rolled out a phased approach to ending his mask mandate, but the governor’s executive order takes away the mayor’s ability to do that.

Now, Orange County is strongly considering suing the state over it.

“We are in communications with other local governments around the state,” Demings said.

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Demings said Orange County is working with other local governments on what legal options they have, but he wouldn’t say which ones.

“Suffice it to say that there are multiple local governments around the state concerned about the usurping of local government’s authority,” he said.

Demings said it’s not just about the most recent executive order, but that taking away local control has been the governor’s “M.O.” for quite a while now.

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“This last legislative session, there were a number of pieces of legislation that were filed to preempt local governments authority,” Demings said.

But DeSantis said his order is the only way to get more people to roll up their sleeves.

“Get vaccinated, and then live your life as if you are protected,” he said.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.