Any thoughts of detente in the ongoing conflict between the Agriculture Commissioner and the Governor can be put to rest.
On Friday, Commissioner Nikki Fried issued a statement slamming Gov. Ron DeSantis for “failing to lead” during the coronavirus crisis.
“Florida needs leadership now more than ever,” Fried said, “but Governor DeSantis is failing to lead. His safer-at-home order is filled with glaring loopholes as the details emerge.”
Fried said the Governor “quietly issued a second executive order that weakens stay-at-home restrictions, allowing mass gatherings on beaches and in religious institutions, creating enormous confusion for local officials, and putting Floridians and businesses further at risk after weeks of inaction.”
She was referencing an executive order this week that issued carveouts from bans on mass gatherings for churches, now seemingly put on the honor system for social distancing guidelines.
The Commissioner originally praised the Governor for making “the right call” and taking action she saw as long-overdue, but that was before the church carveout.
Fried also took issue with the unemployment claims system, which has been exposed to be critically flawed and incapable of dealing with the hundreds of thousands of Floridians suddenly out of work.
“He’s deflecting responsibility for his unemployment system fiasco, leaving millions of Floridians without the economic help they need indefinitely. At a time when our state most needs steady, accountable, transparent leadership, the Governor is unwilling or unable to provide it. Governor, you need to correct these failures now, before our people and economy are further endangered.”
Fried’s press office notes that “Commissioner Fried had first called on the Governor to issue a stay-at-home order on March 20, and joined members of Congress in calling on the Governor to increase the state’s unemployment assistance, among the lowest in the nation.”
DeSantis has vowed to take an “all hands on deck” approach to solving the unemployment claims crisis, including bringing in staffers to the Department of Economic Opportunity from other parts of the state government.
The dynamic between Fried and DeSantis frayed this year, with the Commissioner bemoaning an attempted “partisan power grab,” in which the Governor sought to move the Office of Energy out of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The measure passed the House, but did not get Senate consideration.