The following editorial was published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune on April 14, 2022.
If only I could address how the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature attended to our most urgent needs during the recent legislative session. But I can’t. This session was all about fueling Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political ambitions and ingratiating corporate donors and special interests.
Convenient political targets – women, children, teachers and minorities – were used to pass legislation for which most Floridians have little interest. Democrats tried to respond legislatively to the attacks on our freedoms, but the Republicans would have none of it.
Evidently DeSantis believes no female of child-bearing age, their doctors or their families should make personal health decisions. So the Legislature gave him an extreme 15-week abortion ban providing no exceptions for incest, rape or sex trafficking. The legislation showcases DeSantis’ aversion to protecting or supporting sexual assault survivors. In our country, children are victims of sexual assault about every nine minutes, and the average age of a sex-trafficked girl is 15.
The governor continued his assault on teachers’ independence and their ability to cover racism and sexuality in the classroom. Books like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ can be banned along with the honest teaching of history. And DeSantis accelerated his homophobic attacks on LGBTQ+ children.
The reason for these spiteful assaults is to shift public-school education funding to private corporations that run charter schools by falsely portraying public schools as threatening. But children will pay the price for this pandering to special interest groups.
DeSantis got his hand slapped for restricting our freedom to vote: aspects of his obstructive voting law were determined by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to be racially motivated and unconstitutional. But DeSantis persists in his aim to intimidate certain voters. The Legislature gave him another bill that allows for an election police force and increases fines on third-party voter registration groups, like small Black churches, from $1,000 to $50,000 if a voter registration form is not returned in a timely manner.
Meanwhile, the anti-solar legislation that Florida Power and Light wrote will make it more expensive to put solar panels on roofs, and it will devastate small rooftop solar businesses. As the Miami Herald documented, FPL wrote the bill, delivered it to the GOP-dominated Florida Senate and followed it up with a $10,000 contribution. DeSantis is happy to grant special treatment to special interests if those checks keep coming.
But DeSantis didn’t address the following:
• Toxic algae blooms that have caused more than 1,000 manatees to starve to death.
• A safety inspection bill for aging condos.
• Florida’s rental market crisis.
• Reforms to Florida’s costly home insurance market.
• Declining coral reefs.
Florida has become unaffordable for many, yet the $112.1 billion budget includes little money for affordable housing. The governor could provide immediate relief at the gas pumps; instead October will be the only gas tax holiday month because it will aid him in the November election.
DeSantis isn’t standing up for government for the people; he’s standing up for donor-inspired policies. And if DeSantis isn’t defeated in November, I fear that things will only get worse.