Florida politics as unusual

An excerpt from Florida Playbook by Gary Fineout, Feb 3, 2022.

It’s become a cliché, but former House Speaker John Thrasher summed it succinctly when Republicans first took control of the Florida Legislature: It’s all about the base.

Addendum — Let’s add another cliché into the mix as well: Elections have consequences.

Context — The GOP has been in firm control of Florida’s government for more than two decades now — and there have been years when those in charge flexed their power to push through long sought-after conservative ideas. Democrats have complained and debated for hours but could do little to stop Republicans.

That’s history — But every now and then Democrats would score a victory when a bill got bogged down amid GOP hand-wringing as to whether some proposal went too far. Many times, sessions during an election year were designed to avoid contentious partisanship. That’s all gone.

Marching onward — Whether it’s a new 15-week abortion ban or bills dealing with “wokeness” and immigration, Republicans are grinding ahead with little regard to Democratic protests or fervent speeches. Example: A request that the Senate include an exemption for rape and incest in the abortion legislation was soundly rejected on Wednesday.

A legal matter — It doesn’t matter if some of the bills at hand might have constitutional problems. State Sen. Tina Polsky put it this way in committee this week: “We can’t keep passing unconstitutional laws one after another after another.” Well, to paraphrase another Republican legislator — yes they can.

Track record — Several bills passed last session by legislators got waylaid and bogged down in courts, including the “anti-riot” bill, a cap on donations to citizen initiatives, a ban on vaccine passports and so on. But urged on by Gov. Ron DeSantis — and aware of changes in both the U.S. Supreme Court and state Supreme Court — legislators are at it again this year.

Not far enough? — If anything, the complaint from some right-wing Republicans is that the Legislature isn’t listening enough to the GOP base and taking up, say, a bill to allow open carry of guns in Florida. But there will be still plenty for Republicans to tout on the campaign trail in the months ahead.