The final countdown for DeSantis and a ‘historic’ session
Hello and welcome to Monday, the first day of May and the last week of the 2023 legislative session.
A long, strange trip — And what a nearly-60-day jaunt it’s been so far. Republicans — who won a supermajority in the Legislature last year — have used that power to advance a lengthy to-do-list for Gov. Ron DeSantis ahead of a highly anticipated campaign for president.
Not following the script — For those outside of Tallahassee, you may not realize that it’s not the normal way of doing business to have a governor offer up — and then win — approval of such a hefty agenda. It’s also unusual for legislators to load up the front part of the legislative calendar with such substantive bills. Instead, that’s usually left for the hectic final week.
Declaration — House Speaker Paul Renner put it this way last week: “I think we’ve delivered major, major victories on so many different fronts and the governor can rightly claim credit for having one of the biggest sessions certainly in Florida history.”
Here’s what DeSantis has already gotten — Measures on abortion, guns, the death penalty, lawsuit limits as well as new restrictions on unions traditionally aligned with Democrats. He also got a ban on children attending adult-themed drag shows and an elections measure that will make it clear he can run for president without having to resign if he beats former President Donald Trump and becomes the GOP nominee.
Here’s what DeSantis is getting soon — A new immigration crackdown, including millions of dollars more for his migrant relocation program, contentious changes to higher education, continued bans on Covid-19-related mandates, an expansion of Florida’s controversial parental rights in education bill that would block schools from using pronouns if “they do not correspond” with someone’s sex at birth, as well as a new state budget that includes many of his priorities.
Here’s what DeSantis may not get — A ban on gender-affirming care has passed both the House and Senate but there is a divide over parts of the bill, including the House’s push to bar private insurance companies from approving coverage for treatments. A DeSantis’ push for a “digital bill of rights” aimed at tech companies may not make it across the finish line either.
Here’s what DeSantis is not getting — A measure to make it easier to sue journalists and media companies for defamation and the repeal of the state law that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates if they went to a Florida high school for three straight years.
Don’t forget — These lists are not exhaustive, and don’t even include Florida’s major expansion of private school vouchers that was pushed by Renner. While it wasn’t a DeSantis priority per se he has already touted it on recent stops outside the state.
The bottom line — While there have been other big years for governors and state legislators (2011 for example comes to mind, when the GOP also had a supermajority), this is certainly one of the most substantive in recent memory. The question, of course, is whether this helps DeSantis — or as some have suggested — will “backfire” on him during a bid for national office.
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis.
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THE AGENDA — Florida Republicans gave DeSantis (most of) his legislative wishlist, by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout: With just one left week to go in the annual legislative session, Florida’s Republican-led lawmakers have largely delivered on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ top policy priorities — but there are still a handful of items left unfulfilled. … Democrats, vastly outnumbered by the supermajority Republicans enjoy in the Legislature, have spent the entire session calling on Republicans to stand up to DeSantis instead of assisting his presumed bid for president. “This session was about the governor’s wish list,” said Rep. Fentrice Driskell, the House Democratic leader.
— Florida Legislature passes bill allowing DeSantis to run for president as governor, by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout
THAT WENT WELL — “DeSantis underwhelms Britain’s business chiefs,” by POLITICO Europe’s Stefan Boscia: He hopes to win the hearts and minds of devoted Donald Trump supporters ahead of next year’s U.S. election. But Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis failed to impress British business chiefs at a high-profile London event Friday, in a tired performance described variously as “horrendous,” “low-wattage” and “like the end of an overseas trip.” The Florida governor, expected to launch his bid next month to challenge Trump as the Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential race, met with more than 50 representatives of major U.K. firms and business lobbying groups as a part of a four-country “trade mission” ending in London Friday.
London dispatch — “Ron DeSantis: I back Kemi Badenoch in her war on wokery,” by The Sunday Telegraph’s Allister Heath
MOUSE TRAP — “DeSantis v. Disney: Who has the edge in a long, drawn-out fight?” by Tampa Bay Times’ Jay Cridlin and Emily L. Mahoney: “It’s the first time that Disney, one of Florida’s largest employers, has ever sued the state, said Rick Foglesong, a retired political science professor and author of a book on Disney’s history in the state. ‘It’s amazing that our governor would take Disney to task in the first place, but all the more so that they should get into the legal fray here,’ Foglesong said. ‘They’re going the legal route, and so playing more hardball.’ Few companies are as equipped to do so.”
‘THE CREDIBILITY OF HIS CRUSADE’ — Vivek Ramaswamy swipes at Ron DeSantis on Disney, by POLITICO’s Kelly Garrity: “GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy made a dig at one of his likely opponents, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, over the governor’s public battle with Disney. “Here’s where Ron DeSantis really lost it here. He’s gone on the wrong path as he claimed — and this part actually sounded good to me — Disney should have never had crony-capitalist, lobbying-related privileges in the first place,” Ramaswamy said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
MEANWHILE IN CELEBRATION — “DeSantis stirs up opposition in Florida town built by Disney,” by Washington Post’s Tim Craig: “Ted Baker voted for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, strongly supporting his policies during the pandemic and leadership after Hurricane Ian plowed through the state last year. The lifelong Republican had also hoped to see DeSantis run for president and flush former president Donald Trump off the national stage. But as Baker lounged on a folding chair near the ‘Happiest Place on Earth,’ the 58-year-old retiree said the governor has lost his support due to his relentless squabbling with the builder and quasi-overseer of this idyllic town, the Walt Disney Co.”
— DeSantis allies go to war with an unlikely foe: Nikki Haley, by POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt and Natalie Allison
— “‘I think he’s in trouble’: Growing number of Ron DeSantis donors and allies hope for a shake-up,” by NBC News Natasha Korecki and Matt Dixon
— “DeSantis and Florida GOP look to upend public record laws as they attempt to shield his travel and other records ahead of likely White House bid,” by CNN’s Steve Contorno
— “What Biden said about DeSantis, Florida and Disney at DC press dinner,” by Tampa Bay Times
— “How bad is it for Ron DeSantis? He’s polling at RFK Jr.’s level,” by CNN’s Harry Enten
— “How Ron DeSantis could unlock $86 million for a presidential run,” by Wall Street Journal’s Julie Bykowicz and Alex Leary
… DATELINE TALLAHASSEE …
STATE WORKER PAY RAISES PART OF FINAL DEAL — Florida House and Senate budget negotiators toiled throughout the weekend to finish work on a new spending plan. It is anticipated the House and Senate budget chiefs will have one more meeting on Monday where they will close out their work.
Among the notable highlights from the weekend was a decision to offer state employees an across-the-board 5 percent pay raise. They have also agreed to boost retirement benefits for public workers as a way to attract and retain employees. Part of that agreement calls for reversing part of a controversial law that was muscled through more than a decade ago by then-Gov. Rick Scott. The House had also wanted to restore cost-of-living adjustments to those participating in the state’s pension plan, but Senate Republicans suggested that the change was too expensive.
Guess who may not be getting a raise? Gov. Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuňez and the three elected officials of the Florida Cabinet. The House had advocated a pay hike for the governor but the Senate on Sunday night suggested keeping their salaries at current levels while raising it for other top state officials and judges. “You know what? I don’t think the governor wanted a pay raise,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Doug Broxson said. Broxson added that DeSantis wanted others to get a raise this year and the wanted “fund everyone but the Cabinet.”
— “6 things to know about the case that will decide the future of abortion in Florida,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Romy Ellenbogen
— “Senate approves measure to end local control of historic preservation near the coast,” by Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas
— “Legislature passes bill doubling cap on house-hardening grants through ‘My Florida Safe Home’ program,” by Florida Politics’ Jesse Scheckner
— “Not a rebellion, but Republican lawmakers dial back DeSantis on immigration, universities,” by USA Today Network-Florida’s John Kennedy
TRUMPLANDIA AND THE SWAMP
OUGHT TO GIVE IOWA A TRY — “Trump ups competition with DeSantis in planning trip to Iowa,” by The Associated Press’ Thomas Beaumont: The competition between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis is intensifying as the former president is scheduling a return trip to Iowa on the same day that the Florida governor was already going to be in the state that will kick off the Republican contest for the White House. A Trump campaign official said Saturday that the former president plans to be in Iowa on May 13 to headline an organizing rally at a sprawling park in downtown Des Moines. That’s when DeSantis was already slated to headline Iowa Rep. Randy Feenstra’s annual summer fundraiser in northwest Iowa and speak at a party fundraiser later that evening in Cedar Rapids.
— “Donald Trump mocks Ron DeSantis ‘exploratory committee’ reports,” by Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski
— “Donald Trump says soon-to-signed Florida law weakens election integrity,” by Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski
DEMOCRATS MAKE MIAMI MOVE — A trio of Democrats on Monday are jumping into 2024 races in Miami-Dade County. Freddy Ramirez, the director of the Miami-Dade County Police Department, is launching a campaign for elected sheriff. The coming election marks the first time there’s been an elected sheriff in the county for decades. Miami Beach Commissioner and former legislator David Richardson is jumping into the race for county tax collector, which is also now becoming an elected position. Lastly, former Democratic state Rep. Joe Saunders is announcing a run against GOP Rep. Fabian Basabe. Basabe, who once appeared on a reality television show, won election to House District 106 by just 242 votes in a seat that had been held by a Democrat. CBS Miami recently reported that Basabe is under investigation by the House for allegedly slapping an aide and telling the aide to stand in the corner at a Jan. 3 event hosted by a lobbying firm.
THE NEW NORMAL — “Florida was the most prized swing state for decades. That won’t be true in 2024,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Anthony Man: “‘Florida just isn’t as competitive as it once was. The path to the White House for Democrats now goes through Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — and not Florida,’ said Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections, which provides nonpartisan campaign analysis. He is also an elections analyst for CQ Roll Call. Florida is on a longer Inside Elections list of 15 competitive states.”
PENINSULA AND BEYOND
R.I.P. — Erika Kirk, the former first lady of Florida who was married to Gov. Claude Kirk, died last Wednesday at the age of 88. Gov. Kirk became Florida’s first Republican governor in nearly 100 years when he was elected in 1966. And he initially was popular enough that he was on the short list as a potential running mate for Richard Nixon. Erika Kirk, who was born in Germany and then moved to Brazil, was christened “Madame X” when Claude Kirk brought her to his inaugural ball. The couple — both of whom had been married previously — created a blended family. Erika Kirk also gave birth to two children while the Kirks lived at the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee. The next gubernatorial couple to have such young children at the mansion were Gov. Ron DeSantis and first lady Casey DeSantis. The Kirks moved to Palm Beach County after Kirk was defeated for reelection in 1970. Gov. Kirk died in 2011.
— “Worrell says Orange GOP official is helping DeSantis’ office in ‘witch-hunt,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Christopher Cann
ODDS, ENDS AND FLORIDA MEN
— “US principal forced out in ‘porn’ flap views David statue,” by The Associated Press: “A former Florida school principal who was forced to resign after students were shown an image of Michelangelo’s iconic statue of a nude David viewed the masterpiece in person on Friday in Florence. Cecilie Hollberg, who directs the Accademia Gallery in Florence, where the David is the star attraction, said that Hope Carrasquilla, her husband and two children, came straight to the museum right after they arrived in the city. Carrasquilla stepped down as principal of Tallahassee Classical school in the Florida city last month after one parent claimed the towering sculpture was pornographic.”
BIRTHDAYS: Sarah Rumpf, freelance writer and contributing editor at Mediaite … Julia Mazzone
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