Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday announced that all Floridians who were were arrested or fined for violating mask mandates or social distancing requirements will be pardoned.
In a 3-1 vote, the four-member Board of Executive Clemency approved the Republican governor’s decision to officially pardon those who were arrested or fined for violating local government orders.
“This action is necessary so that we can recover, have a good transition to normal operations, and also just a recognition that a lot of this stuff was way, way overboard,” DeSantis said of the move.
DeSantis said the pardon applies to civil and criminal penalties handed to individuals or businesses “punished for breaking unscientific, unnecessary directives.”
Voting to deny the pardons was Democrat Nikki Fried, who is currently State Agriculture Commissioner and is running to unseat DeSantis next year.
“Our local governments stepped up to protect the people of our state. They did what was best for the interests of their communities,” Fried said.
It isn’t clear how many Floridians will be pardoned as a result of the state clemency board’s decision. DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Epoch Times.
The decision to pardon Floridians who violated local government orders follows an executive order issued by the governor on May 3 that suspends all local pandemic emergency mandates effective July 1.
DeSantis signed Senate Bill 2006 last month, passed by Florida state lawmakers in April, granting the governor the ability to override local emergency orders. The bill also includes a ban on vaccine passports that were to levy fines of $5,000 per violation.
The Republican governor at the time described his executive orders as the “evidence-based thing to do,” adding that proponents of lockdowns “really are saying you don’t believe in the vaccines, you don’t believe in the data, you don’t believe in the science.” He added: “We’ve embraced the vaccines. We’ve embraced the science on it.”
The order suspending local emergency mandates only affects governments, not businesses.
In announcing the official pardons, DeSantis highlighted a case which saw the arrest of Mike Carnevale, a Broward County gym owner who refused to enforce mask orders. DeSantis granted clemency to him and his wife.
“Floridians like Mike and Jillian Carnevale should have never faced criminal charges for not requiring masks in their businesses,” the governor said. “Today, we took action in Florida to reject the overreach of local authorities through unnecessary and unscientific mask mandates.”
He added: “No business should face economic ruin and be punished for alleged violations of local orders that are unreasonably restrictive of rights and liberties.”
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.