Florida pardons residents fined or arrested for mask violations

Florida pardons residents fined or arrested for mask violations
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The Florida state clemency board on Wednesday voted to pardon all Florida residents who were arrested or fined for violating mask mandates imposed by local governments.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisConflicting school mask guidance sparks confusion Fauci 'heartened' to see top Republicans encouraging vaccinations Will Pence primary Trump — and win? MORE (R) last month signed an executive order that said he would pardon any individuals who violated mask mandates.

The order granted a 60-day reprieve to anyone who faced charges or was convicted of nonviolent offenses for breaching local COVID-19 restrictions.

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The state’s Board of Clemency, in a 3-1 vote, acted on the order on Wednesday, granting pardons to all Floridians who violated the local mask requirements.

“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, according to CBS 4 Miami.

It was not immediately clear how many Floridians will be affected by the widespread pardons.

DeSantis's office told The Hill that because any cases involve jurisdictions enforcing local orders, it does not have the total number of people potentially pardoned.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) was the only representative of the Board of Executive Clemency to oppose the pardons, according to CBS 4 Miami.

Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, is seeking to take on DeSantis for governor in 2022. She officially launched her candidacy earlier this month.

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“I voted today to uphold our laws, while our so-called pro-law enforcement Governor is actively encouraging people to break the law with politically-motivated stunts like this,” Fried said in a statement after the board’s decision.

“We have laws for a reason. We may not agree with all of them, but we are obligated to follow them as the price of a civil society. Local leaders made choices to protect health, safety, and local economies during an unprecedented health crisis,” she added.

The move in Florida comes as DeSantis works to establish himself on the national stage, amid speculation that he may launch a bid for president in 2024.

He was repeatedly critical of mask mandates and strict COVID-19 mitigation measures throughout the pandemic, and was a strong advocate for reopening the state as soon as possible.

“Just understand, if you’re in good shape, you’re going to handle COVID 99.99 percent of the time. And so they are telling you to close people’s gyms, have them eat take-out and watch Netflix all day. That’s not good for health,” DeSantis said, according to CBS 4 Miami.

“So one of the best things you can do for COVID is to be in good health," he added.