PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – State Rep. Anthony Sabatini is prepared to sue Pinellas County over a mask mandate passed last month, which requires the public to wear face coverings in indoor establishments.
The Republican lawmaker from Howey-in-the-Hills announced the lawsuit against the Board of County Commissioners Friday.
Sabatini is suing the board “for their unlawful ordinance requiring face coverings in Pinellas County,” according to a statement.
“I personally don’t have a problem with masks, but I believe it’s a decision that an individual should make,” he said. “If somebody wants to wear a mask, that’s their decision. This lawsuit is entirely about the will of government and whether government should be making it a law that you can be punished for if you don’t wear a mask.”
Health authorities in Pinellas County and across the globe have encouraged mask-wearing to limit the spread of the virus in affected areas.
On June 23, the Board of County Commissioners voted 6-1 to require people to wear face coverings while in any indoor establishment, with Kathleen Peters being the lone exception saying she supports wearing masks but doesn’t support making it mandatory.
Sabatini says he also believes in the importance of face masks, but says the mandates are unconstitutional. He told CNN “the media has grossly exaggerated their [face masks] effect,” and that wearing a mask is “just a drop in the bucket in terms of precautions you can take.”
Sabatini has also filed lawsuits against mandatory masks in Hillsborough, Orange, Leon and St. Augustine counties.
“We’ve had a few wins and one loss,” he said. “Seminole County got rid of their order. A month later they reinstituted it. Hillsborough County got rid of the entire policy group that created the order. So that’s a win for us.”
Some residents in Pinellas County shared the same sentiment as Sabatini to News Channel 8.
“That is not a government call. That is my call as an American as far as what I put on my face before I enter a business and what I do with my children. That is my choice,” said Hillary Howard.
Despite the lawsuit, however, several Pinellas County officials stand by the mandatory mask ordinance.
“If the representative had attended our meeting yesterday, he would’ve heard our healthcare professionals telling us that our healthcare system, our hospitals are stressed,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Kenneth Welch. “Our staffs are stressed. And that’s why this mask ordinance has to stay in place.”
“There’s no question from a public health standpoint,” said Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton. “We have the authority to take those actions. Most people within the community were asking us to take more restrictive measures.”
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