South Florida Sun-Sentinel by Skyler Swisher
April 21, 2021
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Republican allies have promoted Florida as an “oasis of freedom,” touting a COVID-19 response that favored reopening businesses over continuing public health restrictions.
It’s a different story, though, in the building where Florida’s politicians work.
The state Capitol complex is still effectively locked down — months after DeSantis lifted remaining restrictions on bars and restaurants. A sign at the Capitol’s entrance informs visitors that the building is “temporarily closed” to protect the public and employees.
“The state of Florida is open for business everywhere but the Capitol,” said Rich Templin, a lobbyist for Florida AFL-CIO. “Why is the Capitol so sacrosanct that it has to be shut down because of the virus, but bars and restaurants down the street are open, and everyone is there?”
DeSantis has barred cities and counties from enforcing mask mandates and other COVID-19 safety regulations, but entering the Capitol comes with adhering to a detailed list of COVID-19 guidelines.
Lawmakers, staffers and members of the media are required to be tested weekly for COVID-19. In the Senate, the public cannot attend committee meetings in person and can comment on bills only remotely from a nearby civic center. The House’s rules are less strict, but the public still must register at least three hours before a meeting to attend.