November 7, 2022

The Sarasota Journal

Your community-based independent news source.

Confusion reigns over stay-at-home orders

COVID-19

With Pinellas County issuing a stay-at-home order and now Hillsborough County as well, Sarasota County commissioners asked for clarification during their March 24 meeting.

Last week, County Attorney Rick Elbrecht circulated a memo to commissioners in response to questions being raised by other local jurisdictions about their authority to do so.

In the memo, Elbrecht cited Florida statutes that enumerated the emergency powers of the state and local governments. Nothing in those statutes, Elbrecht wrote gave the county the “express authority to impose curfews or order business

closures.”

That authority, the attorney continued, rested solely with the governor who could delegate authority if he so chose.

“At present, during the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor has not issued an executive order delegating the explicit authority to impose curfews or to close or otherwise affect private business operations,” Elbrecht wrote.

With that, he concluded, neither the county commission nor the cities had any authority to issue a stay-at-home order.

Elbrecht did add that the county’s general police power under emergency management powers might make the issuance of such an order possible. But, he cautioned, “With no specific legal guidance for or against such an exercise of local authority, it is not clear what the legal ramifications of such an exercise would be given the current unique circumstances.”

Warren Richardson
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