Florida ends a legislative session marked by culture wars

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida legislature has had 60 days to accomplish two things: pass a budget and approve new policy maps. Lawmakers didn’t finish the budget on time, and it looks like they’ll be back in a special session to continue working on a Congressional map.

But strawberry shortcake will be the state’s official dessert under a bill that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has already signed into law.

Lawmakers extended their session for three days to finish work on the budget, approving a $112.1 billion spending plan on Monday. As lawmakers sent DeSantis a map of Congress that will contain a new 28th district, he said he was dead when he arrived and would veto it. Candidates for the federal elections run from June 13 to June 17.

The session was largely driven by DeSantis’ agenda on cultural issues. Lawmakers sent him bills aimed at keeping immigrants illegally in the country out of Florida and limiting how race can be discussed in classrooms and in corporate racial sensitivity training. Other bills sent to the governor would add new limits on abortion and also ban discussion of LGBTQ issues with young college students.

“I honestly believe this is the weirdest session I’ve ever seen,” said Mac Stipanovich, who spent decades as a Republican political strategist and lobbyist before switching parties ahead of the presidential election in 2020. “There’s quite often a performative red meat issue that will characterize or even dominate the session, but we had four or five here. That’s all the session was about – red meat of the culture war.

DeSantis sees the session very differently. He spoke to reporters at the end of the session, touting recruiting incentives, bonuses and raises for law enforcement; increases for teachers and money for schools, and funds for the environment.

“We were able to leave no doubt that Florida is the best state of law and order in the country,” DeSantis said to cheers from fans.

He also got the Bureau of Election Crimes and Security he wanted under the Florida Department of State which will look into allegations of voter fraud. The legislation would also create a dedicated police force to prosecute election crimes, although critics note that voter fraud is rare and generally detected.

DeSantis also said the session was aimed at parents and praised what opponents call the “don’t say gay” bill, which bans teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten to the third year.

“As a parent of three children ages 5 and under, thank you for allowing my wife and I to send our children to kindergarten without them being sexualized,” DeSantis said.

Likewise, he touted the bill he called the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act, or Stop WOKE. DeSantis announced his support for the legislation at a campaign-style event in which he attacked the use of critical race theory.

Critical race theory is a way of thinking about American history through the prism of racism. Scholars developed it during the 1970s and 1980s and it focuses on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain white dominance in society.

“We in Florida have shown a commitment to education, not indoctrination,” he said.

Lawmakers also passed a bill that would ban abortions after 15 weeks with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.

Democrats, especially black lawmakers, saw DeSantis’ platform as a way to drum up political support by creating division. DeSantis is positioning himself for a possible presidential election in 2024.

“The racist undertone to a lot of these policies is what a lot of us talk about,” said Sen. Shevrin Jones, who is black and gay. “All this to get a vote, are you stepping on the heads of black people, are you stepping on the heads of the LGBTQ community, or are you continuing to pass off women’s rights as politics? That’s pettiness at best. spirit.”

One notable bill that died was a response to the Surfside condo collapse that killed 98 people. The bill would have required recertification after 30 years for each condominium over three floors, or 25 years if the building is within 5 kilometers of the coast, and every 10 years thereafter. The Champlain Towers South was 40 years old and going through the 40-year recertification process required by Miami-Dade County when it collapsed last June.

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