MIAMI — Controlled by Republicans for over two decades, the Florida Legislature has ceased to function as an independent body and instead serves as a rubber stamp for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. The result of this one-party rule now completely steered by the whims of a single right-wing fanatic is a slew of unhinged fascist legislation that targets vulnerable communities, diminishes civil liberties, and serves special interest groups at the expense of working people.
The barrage of bills filed by Florida Republicans in the past few weeks is hard to believe, so I will list them below, one by one, to illustrate just how extreme these proposals truly are.
This proposal is designed to continue defunding Florida public schools and in the process hand over $4 BILLION of our tax dollars to unaccountable private charter schools through a voucher program. At a recent committee hearing for the bill, they cut public comment to just one minute in an effort to stifle criticism.
Despite out-of-control housing costs that have resulted in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country, Florida Republicans want to take away local government’s ability to enact rent controls during states of emergency. This bill would also silence the voices of 59 percent of Orange County residents, who in 2022 voted to enact a rent stabilization ordinance due to skyrocketing prices.
In a transparent giveaway to wealthy special interest groups, this bill puts the financial burden on taxpayers to defend against for-profit corporations for passing local laws that serve the needs of their communities. This bill would permit any private business to sue local governments for damages if the courts deem a new or amended local ordinance to be “arbitrary or unreasonable.” It even allows for local ordinances to be automatically suspended upon initiation of a lawsuit. Basically, deep-pocketed corporations could use litigation to delay the effect of local ordinances by tying them up in court. Similar legislation failed last after an intense outcry from the public.
In a true snowflake move, Florida Republicans want to create safe spaces for themselves by basically fining you $35,000 if you call them racist or accuse them of discrimination.
As Floridians are getting evicted and face a crumbling property insurance market, GOP state Rep. David Borrero decided to use one of his seven available bill slots for an idiotic proposal meant to ban pride flags from being flown on public buildings.
Sticking to their theme of undermining the First Amendment, this bill would basically prohibit people from filming police officers by forcing you to be at least 30 feet away if you want to film.
Facing a national outcry after he transported 50 migrants, along with their children, to Martha’s Vineyard under false pretenses, even giving them wrong information meant to sabotage their asylum cases, DeSantis decided to double down. The Florida Legislature approved $10 million to continue the plan, attempted to cut previous language in other bills that prohibited DeSantis from using tax dollars to transport undocumented people from other states to other states, and granted approval for his previous use of funds for the flights that went to no-bid contracts for companies that donated to Republican campaigns in Florida.
Cementing attacks on higher education institutions meant to turn them into compliant right-wing propaganda machines, this bill would enact the most draconian and censorious restrictions on higher education in the history of the United States. It would ban majors and minors in gender studies; trustees, who are often unqualified political appointees, can call for a post-tenure review of any faculty member at any time; and faculty hiring is now in the hands of said trustees.
This is another unhinged preemption bill that would ban local governments from adopting “laws, regulations, rules, or policies” having to do with water quality or quantity, pollution control, and wetlands. It’s another obvious giveaway to special interest groups that don’t want local anti-pollution ordinances impacting their profit margins.
In yet another giveaway to special interest groups at the expense of the environment, this bill puts limits on how state agencies can “regulate greenhouse gas emissions for the purpose of addressing changes in atmospheric temperature,” and preempts local governments from requiring the use of energy-saving materials in construction.
This is an expansion of Florida’s already infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It would censor LGBTQ topics through 8th grade and includes both public and charter schools. It also establishes government regulation of pronouns.
Probably one of the dumbest bills filed this legislative session, it would abolish the Florida Democratic Party due to its past support of slavery in the 1800s. It’s a wildly unconstitutional proposal that its sponsor claims is just to troll the opposition, admitting that the bill is another performative stunt that does zero to help Floridians dealing with out-of-control housing costs.
The same asshole that filed the bill to abolish the Florida Democratic Party also filed this union-busting bill that decertifies public sector unions with less than 60 percent membership while also making automatic dues deduction illegal for public sector unions. Of course, police unions are exempt. The bill is meant to undermine workers’ ability to collectively bargain and fight for better wages and benefits.
This proposal is backed by out-of-state companies that want Florida lawmakers to allow them to impose perpetual, limitless junk fees on tenants who can’t come up with cash to pay security deposits when moving into a new apartment. It also guts security deposit protections in Florida and is obviously meant to squeeze perpetual cash in the form of fees from desperate renters.
This proposal is making national headlines due to it being such a blatant attack on free speech and freedom of the press. Introduced by Republican state Sen. Jason Brodeur, who was elected through an electoral fraud scheme involving ghost candidates funded by Florida Power & Light, the bill would require bloggers who write about DeSantis and other members of the state cabinet or legislature to register with the state or face fines. It has been noted that this law appears to have been modeled by existing legislation previously passed by the authoritarian governments in Russia and Hungary.
If this passes, Florida’s elected school board members would no longer be able to approve materials that are used to teach sex education to public school students, it would further limit lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity, and would not allow school staff to ask students what their preferred pronouns are.
This is the Florida GOP attempting to ban drag queen shows by seeking to revoke licenses of establishments that admit a child to so-called “adult live performances.” What that entails is defined extremely broadly in the proposal, and a violation would constitute a misdemeanor in the first degree.
This bill would make it a second-degree misdemeanor for a trans person to not leave a bathroom of their self-identified gender when asked by someone—more anti-trans bigotry funded by Florida tax dollars.
Probably the most extreme, anti-trans proposal that has been filed so far, this bill would criminalize parents and health care providers that give gender-affirming treatment to trans youth. It would allow the government to seize control of kids if their parents might seek the care that is supported by all major medical organizations, including from families where the child in question may reside outside of Florida.
This is one of Ron DeSantis’s priority bills for this legislative session. It would establish permitless carry in Florida and abolish all training and safety requirements to carry a gun in Florida. States that passed permitless carry saw a 22 percent increase in gun homicides in the first three years. When Arizona repealed its concealed carry requirement in 2010, there was an 11 percent increase in gun injuries and deaths.
As the United States continues to grapple with gun violence, this bill would slash gun safety regulations established after the Parkland shooting by lowering the age to buy a rifle from 21 to 18.
Ron DeSantis pushed Republican lawmakers to file what would be perhaps the most anti-immigrant legislation filed at the state level ever. This bill makes it a third-degree felony to drive or house an undocumented immigrant, blocks undocumented people from practicing law in Florida, prohibits local funding of community identification programs that allow those who can’t get driver’s licenses or state-level ID cards to access municipal-level identification cards, expands E-Verify to make it harder for immigrants to work and small businesses to hire, and violates HIPPA by mandating health care providers to disclose patients’ immigration status—even though undocumented Floridians probably pay more in taxes than DeSantis’s billionaire donors.
DeSantis spent the better part of last year running away whenever asked if he supported more abortion restrictions after signing into law a 15-week abortion ban. As advocates warned would happen, Florida Republicans have now filed a six-week abortion ban because we have in Tallahassee a bunch of extremist right-wing theocrats who want to impose their belief system and way of life on the rest of us.
If you are pissed off after reading this and want to participate in some sort of peaceful demonstration at the Florida capital, the Department of Management Services, which oversees state facilities, is now requiring at the behest of the DeSantis administration that events held in the capital “align” with its mission—meaning that if you want to hold an event in the capital critical of DeSantis and Florida GOP policies, good luck with that.
It’s fascism folks, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Thomas Kennedy is an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida. Twitter: @tomaskenn