DeSantis’ rapid response team in the Florida Legislature
Good Thursday morning.
Tick, tick, tick — Florida legislators are usually deadline oriented and push the bulk of their work off to the very end.
Trust the process — It’s a byproduct of a session that (usually) lasts just 60 days where trading offers and negotiating goes back and forth as legislators from both chambers try to gain leverage to get what they want. Another factor: Many times the fate of important bills aren’t decided until work on the budget comes to a close in the final days. Or as one Florida legislator once succinctly put it: “Everything is connected to everything.”
Crank it up — Except when it’s not. The expected presidential campaign by Gov. Ron DeSantis has put everything into overdrive. After packing in not one, but two special sessions in the last three months, House and Senate Republicans are now forging ahead this year with little resistance on an agenda that will likely prove valuable on the trail for DeSantis. It’s a notable difference from years when legislators will move through one major bill in the first week …. and then the process slows down as committees load up with minor bills, local bills and special interest fights.
The list — Bills dealing with vouchers, immigration, lawsuit limits, guns, changes to the death penalty, higher education have already cleared at least one committee. A House panel on Thursday will take up a proposed ban on abortions after six weeks that was filed just last week. On the same day the voucher bill is on the House floor and the Senate version has its last committee stop. Both the House and Senate are also scheduled on Thursday to consider a measure targeting unions.
Planning it out — Looking ahead, it’s not out of the question to see that most of the bills that DeSantis wants passed could be on his desk by the end of this month or early April. There is buzz that legislators want to take off half of the week prior to Easter.
Arriving — But as of right now, it appears the GOP-controlled Legislature is poised to deliver DeSantis his list of legislative victories early enough so that he could have highly-publicized bill signings next month. Which means that timeline for an expected presidential launch could also be moved up. Start the clock.
— WHERE’S RON? — Gov. DeSantis will be in Winter Haven where he will hold a press conference with state Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo.
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GETTING IT ALL — Ron DeSantis has a Florida problem, by POLITICO’s David Siders, Sally Goldenberg and Gary Fineout: As the Florida governor cast out to early nominating states in recent days, even some of his supporters could see a problem brewing for him back home. Lawmakers in his home state are advancing controversial bills on gender and diversity policy — base-pleasing issues for Republicans, but a potential liability in a general election. And on one cultural issue that did hurt Republicans in the midterm elections — abortion — [Gov. Ron] DeSantis is going even further to the right, preparing to sign a bill banning the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape and incest if victims offer proof of a crime.
Response — “Wow,” said Amy Tarkanian, a former chair of the Republican Party in Nevada, where DeSantis traveled over the weekend. “A lot of people don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks. I’m pro-life, but that’s pretty extreme.”
Rationale — But a top Republican consultant in Tallahassee, who was granted anonymity to talk freely about DeSantis, said there is a logic behind the governor’s moves. “The bottom line is that if he decides to run he wants to have the most robust cultural and policy conservative list of accomplishments,” said the consultant. “This makes him impervious to hits from the right.”
GOING DOWN THAT ROAD — “Ron DeSantis hit with an ethics complaint from Trump super PAC,” by NBC News’ Matt Dixon: Donald Trump’s allies are stepping up their battle with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, formally accusing him of violating state ethics and election laws with his “shadow presidential campaign.” Make America Great Again Inc. is filing a 15-page complaint Wednesday with the Florida Commission on Ethics, a draft of which was obtained exclusively by NBC News.
Complaint details — “It asks the commission to probe whether pro-DeSantis super PACs, his ‘personally lucrative book tour’ and a continued wave of state-level campaign contributions, among other things, ‘are unlawful because they serve his personal political objectives, are in furtherance of his personal financial gain at the expense of Florida taxpayers, and are intended to influence his official decision to resign from office.’”
SOUNDING OFF — U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona took aim at the ongoing battles in Florida over books and curriculum in an op-ed published early Thursday morning in the Tampa Bay Times. The op-ed titled “As US Education Secretary, I want us to enrich public schools not ban books and topics” never mentions Gov. Ron DeSantis directly by name but Cardona faults politicians who promote “partisan agendas” in the classroom. “Ironically, some of the very politicians who claim to promote freedom are banning books and censoring what students can learn,” Cardona writes.
Excerpt: “It’s just as disturbing that some politicians want to limit our children’s freedom to read. Over the last year, 4 million students have had their reading censored through book bans — with the majority of book bans censoring stories of people of color or LGBTQ Americans. Just imagine being a parent whose kid has never read a single book in school about a family who looks like theirs.”
— “DeSantis to unveil alliance with 18 states to combat Biden’s ‘woke’ ESG agenda,” by Washington Examiner’s Ryan King
— “Top Republican endorses Ron DeSantis for president despite governor not announcing candidacy,” by Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom
— “Ukraine war: Florida’s Ron DeSantis invited to visit after ‘territorial dispute’ remarks,” by BBC News’ Paulin Kola
— “Ahead of South Carolina visit, Hutchinson calls DeSantis’ Ukraine position ‘naïve,’ by McClatchy D.C.’s Alex Roarty
— “The GOP’s effort to diminish DeSantis on Ukraine,” by Washington Post’s Aaron Blake
— “House Republicans say DeSantis had no friends in Congress. Now, many want him to run for president,” by NBC News’ Scott Wong
… DATELINE TALLAHASSEE …
THE AGENDA — Florida legislators move quickly on DeSantis immigration crackdown, by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout: Lawmakers cleared a sweeping immigration bill that is one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s top legislative priorities through its first hurdle on Wednesday, a sign that the GOP-controlled Legislature is moving quickly to hand him victories quickly ahead of an expected run for president. It’s just the second week of the nine-week session and legislators are also marching ahead with bills dealing with the death penalty, higher education, guns and limits on lawsuits, as well as an expansion of private school vouchers. A bill filed just last week that would ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy will have its first legislative hearing on Thursday.
‘NO’ — Senate President opposed to altering Parkland gun restriction, by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout: The top Republican in the Florida Senate said she is opposed to repealing a key provision of the sweeping gun law passed in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre that left 17 people dead. Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, who was one of the architects of the legislation five years ago, said during an interview with reporters on Wednesday she does not support letting those aged 18 to 20 to purchase a rifle. House Republicans this week started moving ahead with a bill to roll back the age from 21.
ROUND 2 — Florida eyes new rules for sex education, book objections, by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: Lawmakers in the Florida House introduced legislation Wednesday to bolster rules surrounding local book objections in an education package that also gives the state more authority over approving sex ed materials. Part of Florida’s push to heighten scrutiny about what K-12 students are reading, the proposal would propel schools to bar access to books challenged for sexual content and create a means for parents or residents to get the state involved with book disputes. The House’s Education Quality Subcommittee approved the bill, HB 1069, with Democrats in opposition alongside free speech groups that argue it amounts to censorship in the classroom.
‘LET’S SCREW OVER FLORIDA’ — “Why Florida bikers are leading the attack on lawsuit limits backed by DeSantis, Republicans,” by USA Today Network-Florida’s John Kennedy: “As with virtually everything on DeSantis’ wish list, the Republican-controlled Legislature is poised to OK sweeping limits on lawsuits, mostly shielding businesses big and small along, with insurance companies, from the risk of costly payouts. ‘These are drastic changes. They’re calling it tort reform. But it’s really ‘let’s screw over Florida so (DeSantis) can get to the White House,’ said Jose Mack, 55, of Hudson, who goes by J-Mack, and is a leader of motorcycle clubs and organizations in Central Florida.”
RADIOACTIVE ROADS — House panel advances phosphogypsum roads bill over Dems opposition, by POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie: A House subcommittee on Wednesday advanced a bill — despite opposition from some Democrats — that would allow the use of a phosphate mining waste byproduct in roadway demonstration projects while it is being studied. The bill, HB 1191, directs the state Department of Transportation to conduct a study of the use of mildly-radioactive phosphogypsum in roadways if federal officials approve its use, which environmentalists oppose.
COLLEGE DAZE — Florida senators split from the House on axing majors in DEI bill, by POLITICO’s Andrew Atterbury: A Senate education panel gave initial approval Wednesday to legislation that would effectively outlaw diversity, equity and inclusion programs in Florida’s university system but opted against targeting specific majors like gender studies that the House wants to eliminate. The amended higher education reform package backed by the Senate’s Education Postsecondary Committee creates key policy differences for lawmakers to iron out in bills that were inspired by Gov. Ron DeSantis in his fight against “wokeness” on college campuses.
SPEAKING OUT — “Miya Marcano’s family, other crime victims fight DeSantis-backed lawsuit limit bill,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Skyler Swisher: “The families of a murdered Orlando college student and a Parkland shooting victim are among those lining up against legal reforms backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, arguing the changes could deny crime victims civil damages and shield businesses and insurers from liability. Marlon Marcano said the legislation will hurt his efforts to bring accountability for the death of his daughter, Miya, a 19-year-old Valencia College sophomore from Pembroke Pines killed in 2021 by an apartment maintenance worker who had a master key to her apartment.”
— “Sponsor of Florida’s 6-week ban seeking ‘society’ where abortion is unthinkable,” by WPTV’s Forrest Saunders
— “Florida universities told to hand over more records, this time on union talks,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Divya Kumar
TRUMPLANDIA AND THE SWAMP
— Stormy Daniels speaks to New York prosecutors as possible Trump indictment looms, by POLITICO’s Erica Orden
— “2 Florida men guilty of participating in Capitol riot,” by Associated Press
— “Trump widens lead in 2024 primary race: Quinnipiac poll,” by The Hill’s Jared Gans
PENINSULA AND BEYOND
R.I.P. — “Former lawmaker, Florida public health icon Sam Bell dies,” by Florida Politics’ Christine Jordan Sexton: “Sam Bell, a well-known political and lobbying fixture and part of a Democratic political dynasty in Florida, died Tuesday night during emergency surgery. He was 83. The office of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Bell’s stepdaughter, put out a statement saying that Bell died after an ‘unexpected health complication.’ Bell spent 14 years in the Legislature, where he was the top budget writer in the House and was on the cusp of becoming House Speaker when he was upset by a Republican in 1988 — a precursor to the GOP wave that would flip the Legislature in the next decade. Bell did leave a legacy, especially regarding Florida’s health care policy, where he became known as a fierce champion of children’s issues and public health.”
— “Space Florida executive retiring after overseeing space biz’s liftoff,” by Florida Politics’ Anne Geggis
— “911 audio reveals chaos amid Pine Hills shooting spree,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Cristóbal Reyes, Jeff Weiner and Desiree Stennett
— “Miami stock-crypto scam took in $800,000, feds say. It was spent on luxury cars, gambling,” by Miami Herald’s David J. Neal
— “Judge tosses lawsuit against city of Tallahassee over ‘Abolish Police’ sticker,” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Ana Goñi-Lessan
— “Tyre Sampson’s mom settles lawsuit against Free Fall owner, ICON Park,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Katie Rice
— “Got hurricane insurance from Citizens? Here’s a new reason your bill may rise in Florida,” by Miami Herald’s Alex Harris
ODDS, ENDS AND FLORIDA MEN
— “Injured sea turtles yanked from Boca nature center after employees dismissed,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s David Fleshler: “Endangered sea turtles were ordered removed from the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton this week, amid personnel turmoil and accusations of a toxic workplace. Hoisted from their tanks at the popular environmental center, turtles weighing up to 150 pounds were shipped off to other facilities in South Florida at the direction of state wildlife officials.”
BIRTHDAYS: Richard Corcoran, interim New College president and former House speaker … State Rep. Chip LaMarca
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