Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pardoned any COVID-19 financial penalties at a meeting on Wednesday, including a gym owner who at one point dealt with potential jail time.
“Let’s focus on the real criminals, and let’s make sure that is where our effort is,” DeSantis said. The governor said another round of pardons would be issued for fines businesses not previously included in earlier state clemency board meetings.
DeSantis used the meeting to highlight his opposition to local mandates. “This action is necessary so we can recover, have a good transition to our normal operations, and also, just a recognition that a lot of this stuff was way, way overboard,” DeSantis said.
The governor’s office didn’t say how many fines on people and businesses were pardoned, according to the Miami Herald.
DeSantis called these convictions a “total overreach,” including one against Mike Carnevale, a Broward County gym owner, who was arrested three times in August 2020 for disobeying the county’s rules by not requiring customers to wear masks at the gym.
“It’s really amazing that Gov. Ron DeSantis has granted us clemency for this,” Mike Carnevale said Wednesday. “It’s just affirmation that, you know, we were on to something.”
Two other elected Republicans on the board supported the move, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, according to the Herald. However, Nikki Fried, an agriculture commissioner running against DeSantis in 2022, opposed the decision.
The pardon came after DeSantis announced in May during a Fox News interview he planned to pardon Mike Carnevale and any Floridians who may have infractions for masks and social distancing rules. “Floridians should not be penalized for rejecting the overreach of local authorities through unnecessary mask mandates,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis signed an executive order in May that removed all COVID-19 restrictions throughout the state, another in April outlawing COVID-19 vaccine passports in his state, and one in March that stopped the collection of fines on people or businesses that violated COVID-19 rules.
“It is worth noting that local actions and protocols have helped to keep Floridians safe and healthy, and Ron DeSantis has benefited from that,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a statement back in March, according to the Miami Herald.
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