As Florida Struggles, Republican Majority Hands Conservative Culture Wins to DeSantis

As Florida Struggles, Republican Majority Hands Conservative Culture Wins to DeSantis

Image via Getty Images

By Giselle Balido

May 8, 2023

The GOP-majority legislature delivered on an aggressive agenda for the governor, who told reporters that he got 99% of what he wanted.

As expected, the 60-day Florida Legislative Session that came to a close May 5 scored a series of conservative policy wins meant to boost Gov. Ron DeSantis’ expected bid for the White House in 2024.

But many of the bills Republicans passed elicited pushback from Democrats, including State Sen. Shevrin Jones of Broward County, who blasted legislative Republicans for playing politics instead of focusing on the issues affecting Floridians, such as the property insurance crisis, skyrocketing housing costs, inadequate access to healthcare, clean water, or gun violence.”

“We have chaos in Florida,” Nikki Fried, Chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, told Floricua. “And DeSantis is focusing on culture wars.”

Here is a rundown of the bills signed into law, as well as a slew of bills that the governor is expected to sign.  

Already Signed Into Law

Six-week Abortion Ban

DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 300 that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

The law contains some exceptions, including to save the woman’s life. Abortions for pregnancies involving rape or incest would be allowed until 15 weeks of pregnancy, but only if the woman is able to provide documentation such as a restraining order or police report. 

The ban will take effect only if the state’s current 15-week ban is upheld by the state Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservatives.

Democrats widely opposed the bill, including State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani of Orange County, who called it “incredibly damaging from a health perspective, from a bodily autonomy perspective, from an economic security perspective.”

RELATED: ‘Ron DeSantis Is Putting Us in Danger’: Gun Safety Activists Criticize Open Carry Bill

Concealed Carry Without a Permit

In April, Gov. DeSantis signed House Bill 543 that allows residents to carry a concealed loaded weapon without a permit. He did this behind closed doors, with only the bill sponsors, legislative leaders, and gun rights advocates, including members of the National Rifle Association, in attendance. 

The law will take effect July 1, and allows gun owners to carry a gun in public without a government-issued permit. It also ends a state requirement to undergo training before carrying a concealed weapon outside the home.

This makes Florida the 26th state to pass some form of permit-less carry legislation. The Sunshine State is ranked #2 in mass shootings across the nation and guns are the third-leading cause of death for Florida children ages 1–17, according to recent data.

Blocking Florida Investments Based on ESG 

DeSantis signed a bill which bars state and local governments from making investment decisions on the basis of environmental, social and governmental (ESG) considerations. They will also be prohibited from investing in companies that do.  

A top priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis, the law bans investment managers from issuing ESG bonds or signing contracts with rating agencies that use ESG guidelines such as carbon emissions, worker pay, and executive diversity. It also includes provisions that would ensure that public pension plans and other state-controlled funds cannot consider ESG when investing. 

Waiting on DeSantis’ Signature

The “Tenant Bill of Rights” 

HB 1417 will undo local “Tenant Bill of Rights” laws in cities and counties around the state. Pushed by the Florida Apartment Association, the measure would block local governments from creating any kind of local rent control measures and dissolve Tenants’ Bill of Rights ordinances, which provide basic consumer protections like requiring landlords to give more notice before they raise the rent, among other measures.

Additionally, House Bill 133 will ensure landlords can charge their tenants unlimited, non-refundable fees instead of upfront, refundable security deposits. 

Don’t Say Gay Expansion

An expansion of Florida’s controversial Parental Rights in Education law passed the state Senate last week in a 27-12 vote.

Under the expansion, teachers will not be allowed to discuss sexual orientation or sexual identity with their students through eighth grade. Last year’s bill limited discussion of such topics from kindergarten through third grade. Teachers also can’t address transgender students by their chosen pronouns.

The bill critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” is on its way to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it. 

RELATED: Florida Could Strip Parental Rights from Parents Who Seek Gender-Affirming Care for Their Transgender Child

Transgender Bathroom Bill

House Bill 1521 would ban transgender people from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity, forcing them to use bathrooms that match the sex they were born as.

Under this bill, individuals who enter public bathrooms designated for the opposite sex, as defined under the bill, could face trespassing charges. The measure, which has some exceptions, applies to state and local government buildings, including prisons and jails, airports, stadiums, and public schools and universities. 

Once signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the bill would become law on July 1.

Public-Employee Unions

With Senate Bill 256, Gov. DeSantis aims to silence those who disagree with him and diminish the power of union members by threatening Floridians’ constitutional right to join a union and collectively bargain their working conditions, salaries and benefits. The changes would impact labor groups that represent workers like teachers, 911 dispatchers and nurses. 

Consumer Finance Loans                                                                                          

House Bill 1267 would increase the maximum interest rate on consumer finance loans, setting an across-the-board maximum 36% rate.  This could disproportionately affect borrowers with low income or bad credit who can’t get a better loan from a bank. 

Elections Bill

SB 7050 would make it harder for third-party organizations that work with low-income communities and women to register voters. Organizations will now have 10 days, rather than 14, to submit newly completed voter registration forms to the local county supervisor of elections, among other restrictions. 

In Florida, 1 out of 10 Hispanic voters (10%) were registered by third-party organizations, as opposed to 2 out of every hundred white voters (2%), according to Daniel Smith, the chair of political science at the University of Florida.

“I feel optimistic that Floridians will wake up and help us fight back against [these bills], but I will not be celebrating (today),” Rep. Eskamani said at the close of the Legislative Session.


  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

Share This