Tampa attorney says emergency face mask order is illegal

Coronavirus

TAMPA (WFLA) – At four locations in Hillsborough County on Wednesday, county employees handed out free face masks.

People lined up to get the free masks including David Himmelgreen, “We see the increases during the last two weeks and we’re very that it’s going to explode,”

Cases of the coronavirus are increasing in Hillsborough County so the county Emergency Policy Group voted to require the use of face masks in public buildings.

The order requires business owners to enforce the order of the business owner can face fines and even jail time.

County Commissioner Kimberly Overman is one of those who voted in favor of the order.

“Coronavirus has a Trojan Horse, whether or not you know you have it or not, you can spread it,” said Overman.

She believes face masks can help prevent the spread of the virus.

“My goal is to help people protect themselves and their family and the people they love, including their employees,” said Overman.

However not everyone agrees that wearing face masks helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Tampa attorney Patrick Leduc believes the County Emergency Policy Group over stepped it’s authority and does not have the legal ability to pass this emergency order.

“There is a separation of powers problem in the way with the way the emergency powers group has been formed. Everything they do violates the separation of powers doctrine based on who is a part of the board,” said Leduc.

Leduc believes the emergency order unfairly puts the burden of enforcement on business owners.

“They have legislated it in a way that created what may be violation of equal protection. That is to say, that you walk into person’s business, you don’t wear a mask and I get arrested for it for what you do,” said Leduc.

Commissioner Overman believes the County EPG does have the authority to pass and enforce the order.

“Government has the ability to announce when there is an emergency and with that comes certain roles and responsibilities our legal team has discerned that we are able to do this,” said Overman.

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