Rep. Anthony Sabatini continued his crusade against mask orders Thursday, promoting a lawsuit filed by Leon County GOP Chair Evan Power against the Leon County Commission in the Second Judicial Circuit.
The lawsuit, one of several threatened by Sabatini across the state, takes aim a recent Leon County emergency order that would punish Floridians who do not wear a mask while in a business establishment.
“Their vague Emergency Order 20-15 would result in arbitrary enforcement with abusive results against Floridians in the middle of a recession,” Sabatini tweeted. “No county should be able to fine $250 for not wearing a mask.”
JUST FILED a lawsuit on behalf of @EvanPower against @LeonCounty Commission—their vague Emergency Order 20-15 would result in arbitrary enforcement with abusive results against Floridians in the middle of a recession.
No county should be able to fine $250 for not wearing a mask. pic.twitter.com/5oxlTH5YBt
— Rep. Anthony Sabatini (@AnthonySabatini) June 25, 2020
The order, which began Thursday, makes exceptions for restaurant and bar patrons, children younger than six-years-old, public safety personnel, people exercising with respect for proper social distancing and those outdoors.
“I don’t have a problem with masks. I have a problem with government mandating action in our private lives,” Power told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview.
The lawsuit illustrates the partisan flashpoint created by face masks, despite the recommendations of public health officials in Florida and throughout the nation who say face coverings can reduce the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
President Donald Trump has refused to wear a face covering and his supporters have embraced his stance, branding masks not as a public health necessity but as a government intrusion into personal liberties.
“Under emergency orders, we walk a fine line between what’s right and what’s wrong in intruding in people’s lives,” Power said.
In a telephone interview, Sabatini denied that the lawsuit had political overtones.
“It’s a legal case,” he said. “I don’t really think this is a real emergency at this point.”
Local leaders displayed the opposite point of view in a press release praising the order.
“In just the past five days, Leon County has seen a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases, and we all have a role in stopping the continued spread,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Bryan Desloge. “While requiring face masks may inconvenience some, it will protect many more. I am proud of the Board’s decision today to safeguard our whole community, drive down infections, and save lives.”
Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long echoed the need.
“The science is clear and public health experts agree—the coronavirus spreads quickly indoors and face coverings are one of the most effective ways to limit that transmission,” Long said. “The ordinance reflects where we are today in responding to this pandemic, and we will continue to exercise every possible mitigation strategy in the future to keep our community safe.”
Leon County Commissioner Rick Minor also maintains the mask requirement is justified.
“We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, and wearing masks to keep people safe shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Minor, a Democrat, said in a telephone interview Thursday. “Instead of wasting the court’s time with this frivolous lawsuit, the Leon GOP should work with us to encourage mask wearing, physical distancing and COVID-19 testing. It’s the American thing to do.”
Mask mandates across the state have come under fire in recent weeks.
On Monday, Sabatini appeared alongside Florida Family Policy Council President John Stemberger and Orange County Republican Party Chairman Charles Hart to file a lawsuit challenging Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings‘ executive requiring everyone to wear face masks in public.
Hart joined the two as an individual, not on behalf of the party.
More information on Leon County’s face covering requirement can be found online.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.