DeSantis abandons basic Republican principles

Guest Writer

In the midst of a deadly pandemic surge, the question of home rule versus state mandates is being hotly debated.

And in the process, local governments’ concerns are being trashed and defanged.

Governor DeSantis has repeatedly asserted that state rules trump local initiative. For example, when Longboat Key tried to ban perilous gatherings like large church services, DeSantis overruled local bans and said that they must be allowed.

But our local politicians are fighting back. Last week, LBK Commissioner B.J. Bishop sent a letter to DeSantis saying that our state is in crisis.

“My community is a town of senior citizens. You have forced me as an elected official to return to in-person meetings. With an 8.1% positivity rate, that puts our elected body at great risk.”

LBK has enacted strict mask and meeting laws and regulations to protect its residents, but by state edict, DeSantis has not allowed towns to back up such life-saving regulations with legal penalties.

“Thanks for your concerns,” is what DeSantis answered Commissioner Bishop in a form letter.

The Republican governor has taken a political strategy that is a “herd-immunity” approach to the pandemic case surge in Florida. That philosophy involves letting the pandemic burn itself out through mass infection. He recently vowed to “never do lock-downs again.”

Bishop called on the governor to put a state-wide mask ordinance in place. Stop encouraging people to be out at bars. Stop large events. Help us save lives.

The local hospitals and health care facilities are soon to be overwhelmed, if we continue on this trajectory.

After a  relatively quiet summer, cases have suddenly spiked in LBK and Sarasota. There are 14 active cases on LBK now, all told there were 196 cases in Manatee county and 71 in LBK. The problem remains that Sarasota can’t figure out how many cases there are in LBK, as opposed to the larger Sarasota county.

Bishop speculates that the higher infection rate is due to snow birds returning. Many contractors have workers who are infected that aren’t tallied in LBK totals because they live on the mainland.

“Wearing masks is not a political issue,”  said Bishop, “Cases here are higher than they were all summer. The fastest way to end this terrible pandemic is to enforce the mask laws and ban large gatherings.”

“This will go further in eliminating the closure of businesses which is jeopardizing our economy.”

B.J. Bishop got a great many positive responses to her public letter, but one former mayor accused her of playing politics.

However, current Mayor Ken Schneier is also concerned about not being able to enforce mandates that are important for his constituency. He wants the flexibility to craft a local response.

“The majority of our residents are over 70 and we can’t have the same rules here as they have in Orlando or Clearwater where there are more young people who are not in such danger. Our residents have different wants and needs.”

One in twelve people over 65 who get Covid-19 will die, according to national statistics.

After reading the Bishop letter, Mayor Schneier said, “Interestingly, her letter takes more of an anti-home rule position, demanding more vigorous action at both the federal and state levels. But be careful what you wish for.

“While I am all for the President and Governor taking strong, responsible views on the pandemic, while coordinating the distribution of supplies and cash, I prefer to let local governments make enforcement decisions appropriate for their communities.

“Republicans have always said that local issues should be handled by the government that is closest. But ironically, now Governor DeSantis wants to upstream all the power and tell us what is best for our community.

“I have been a Republican all my life, but this is against basic Republican principles.”

Schneier has long complained that this usurpation of power from towns, cities and counties to the state is increasing.

He says that many bills are moving quickly through both the Senate and the House that either pre-empt towns and counties from enacting laws of local interest or impose costly requirements on municipalities without supplying or identifying a funding source for those mandates.

A quick review of previously imposed mandates and Schneier’s point starts to sharpen up quite quickly: short term rentals, business licenses, scooters, zoning regulation for charter schools, water quality enhancements, vegetable gardens and bans on plastic straws and bags. And let’s not forget last year’s controversial and partially-funded school safety mandates.

Schneier is baffled by the State’s methodical rollback of local authority over local issues.

“As a registered Republican, I find it even harder to understand why the party of small government and home rule is the sponsor of this trend,” he wrote in an opinion piece in the Herald Tribune last year.

Schneier says that though state mandates prevent him from fining individuals from not wearing masks, local businesses that don’t enforce the mask laws can be fined by town ordinances. Legally, local laws generally cover rent laws, zoning and local safety according to the Legal Aid Society.

Schneier argues that there should be a broad and robust debate about why Washington shouldn’t dictate local policies but Tallahassee should.

Earlier this summer, DeSantis issued an order that would have allowed Tootsies, a Miami-based strip club, to stay open after midnight.

Miami-Dade went to court to enforce its curfew avoiding late night partying, and lost in a trial court decision, but the curfew was upheld by a state appellate court.

If you thought the state is being too intrusive, and some things should be left to local rule, here are five Florida state laws that are even more meddlesome:

1. It is illegal to sing in a public place while attired in a swimsuit

2. Women may be fined for falling asleep under a hairdryer, as can the salon owner.

3. Skateboarding without a license is illegal.

4. You must pay for the parking meter if you tie an elephant or an alligator.

5. A special law prohibits unmarried women from parachuting on Sunday.

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Longboat Key News

3 Responses for “DeSantis abandons basic Republican principles”

  1. gene says:

    Blake ,live with the fact that we must move on ! your argument is old and tiring. Yes there are concerns but practice good hygiene thats all you have to do. The science argument is no longer valid . as liberal politician continue with the irrate lock down conditions hurting business and kids with schools florida is flourishing . SO please dont Californicate or Nw=ewyorkcate my florida. Dont escape from liberal run cities because some liberals are actually doing this then come here and want to passrules and laws like they had int hee state ! WE MUST MOVE ON !

  2. Joshua Edery says:

    Party on Wayne!
    Party on Garth!
    Joshua Edery

  3. Sean Turner says:

    It is not just DeSantis, many republicans have abandoned traditional conservative principles in recent years to become followers of the Trump cult. Examples include massive increase in federal spending, attacking the FBI, DOJ and veterans. Some – like Kelly Loeffler in GA – claim they are “not familiar” with the Trump Hollywood tape. Embarrassing lack of decency.

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