TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's governor Wednesday granted a full pardon to violators of local COVID-19 rules during the pandemic.
During a regularly scheduled meeting, DeSantis and his GOP colleagues on the Florida Clemency Board approved pardons for nonviolent offenders of mask orders, social distancing and more.
The governor promised the action was coming last month, saying city and county ordinances were interfering with the state's recovery efforts.
"We just want to say, you know, we've got to stop that," DeSantis said during Wednesday's meeting. "Let's focus on the real criminals and let's make sure that's where our effort is."
The Republican acknowledged the pardons wouldn't likely impact a great deal of Floridians, but at least two were at the Capitol.
Mike and Jillian Carnevale operated a Plantation gym, now shuttered, that repeatedly disobeyed Broward County mask rules. Mike Carnevale said he felt the rule was impractical for gyms and a violation of individual liberties.
"We did it for the health of our community and, you know, medical freedom," he said. "We have to stand for our values as well."
Authorities arrested Mike Carnevale several times, but he said he now feels vindicated following the pardon.
"It's definitely something that moves me, and it's something that I'm more than happy to do," he said. "If, you know, falling on the sword was something I had to do in Broward County for the greater good of Florida, I was more than happy to do that."
Board members also waived COVID-19 fines and fees imposed on violators since their previous meeting in March.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fired opposed both actions.
"Local control, especially during COVID, is what saved us," Fried said.
The Democrat and gubernatorial challenger for 2022 said DeSantis was snatching away local control from cities and counties. Fried further pointing out the governor and the legislature passed bills this session limiting local authority during states of emergency.
"The Republican Party is supposed to be a party of less government and local control and home rule," she said. "Every legislative session, they strip that away."
The Carnevales didn't see the pardon and waivers as a loss of control. The couple considered it a new sense of freedom as they work to rebuild their gym in the coming months.
"We're business owners. We're not criminals," Jillian Carnevale said. "So it feels really good to know that I can move forward. I can start to rebuild my life and rebuild my business without this hanging over my head."