Florida Republican proposes restrictions to governor's emergency power

'There has got to be some checks and balances,' Sen. Jeff Brandes says
Posted at 5:06 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 17:06:36-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There's talk in Tallahassee of reining in the governor's emergency powers, and it's coming from a fellow Republican.

Like the rest of the nation, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued emergency ordersmomentarily shuttering the economy and closing schools to fight the pandemic.

Nearly a year later, State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, wants to ensure those kinds of major emergency actions aren't left to just one person.

"There has got to be some checks and balances," Brandes said.

In the coming weeks, Brandes said he plans to file a bill amendment adding that oversight. The policy would require at least one other member of the four-member Florida Cabinet to approve of something like a shutdown before it could happen.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes
State Sen. Jeff Brandes says the bill is a layer of protection against future administrations.

"You can't launch nuclear missiles without a failsafe system without multiple people confirming that's the correct thing," Brandes said. "You shouldn't be able to shut down the economy of a state without a similar failsafe."

Brandes said his move isn't a dig at the governor, who he supports, but a layer of protection against future administrations.

"We're not saying you shouldn't have power at all," Brandes said. "Maybe it has to be proposed by the governor and confirmed by the cabinet. I have no problem with that."

The idea seemed to confound some fellow Republican senators. Florida GOP Chair Joe Gruters said he needed more time to think about it.

"That's a tough one," Gruters said. "There's probably nobody that values freedom and liberty more than the governor and Jeff Brandes. If they are supporting it, I would say that I would probably support it."

State Sen. Gary Farmer
State Sen. Gary Farmer says he would like to see the language of the bill before supporting it.

Brandes has yet to talk to the governor. Republican leadership, however, looks to be open to his plan. House Speaker Chris Sprowls is reportedly supportive. Senate President Wilton Simpson, too.

"This governor has done a great job, I believe," Simpson said during a Thursday news conference. "But we are also concerned, potentially, about future governors."

Even Florida Democrats were interested in the concept. Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer was hesitant to give his full support until seeing the language.

"Taking away power or giving more oversight to that executive power is a good thing," he said. "The devil is in the details, always."

Brandes didn't have a specific time for filing the amendment. He said he would wait for the right bill to attach it.

The lawmaking session begins March 2.