The Florida GOP has abandoned its party’s identity

The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on Feb  15, 2022. 

OUR POSITION: The Republican Party has long boasted of being the party of small government but under Gov. Ron DeSantis the Florida GOP has gone in the opposite direction.

Florida lawmakers, with a strong nudge from Gov. Ron DeSantis, have spent the last two years running away from their identity. Once the party of small government and against a higher authority putting its thumb on small businesses to limit their freedom, is just a memory it seems.

We’ve written for months about this transformation in one form or another. It takes someone stepping back and looking at the big picture to see just how far Florida’s GOP has gone in stealing home rule from local governments and squashing any laws that run contrary to what lawmakers in Tallahassee see in their vision for the state. Or, maybe we should say what DeSantis sees in his vision for the state.

In Florida, if the Legislature doesn’t like something, it will make a law to stop it. That’s been the MO for four years now and it’s getting more obvious with each session of the Legislature.

Examples are not difficult to find.

  • DeSantis wants Florida to be a state “free” of restrictions related to COVID. To that end, the Florida Department of Health began denying requests for detailed, county-level reports, including COVID case counts that used to be released daily on a website. The DOH has been sued over that decision with plaintiffs saying that by restricting the release of information as part of the governor’s move to reopen the economy, the DOH was “painting the illusory picture that the virus had been defeated.”
  • When the city of Key West passed a law restricting the number and size of cruise ships that docked there the Legislature acted quickly to kill it. The law was proposed to protect the fragile ocean beds and clear waters that people in Key West cherish.
  • When school districts in Florida voted for mask mandates, DeSantis and Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran moved to cut off salaries of school board members and ruled against mandates.
  • The Legislature passed a law that supposedly would quell rioting in the wake of George Floyd protests that rocked the nation. But the new law, which is being challenged in court, restricted the public’s right to gather to protest and went so far as to endanger protesters in the street by eliminating penalties if they might be hit by a car.
  • A law has been proposed that businesses can sue local governments for passing any ordinance that could impact their income by 15% or more. This came about in relation to mask mandates and social distancing among other potential ordinances. The law would be almost impossible to follow as proof the business was impacted by an ordinance would be difficult to provide. The potential for lawsuits and lining the pockets of attorneys is enormous.
  • The governor is suggesting that school districts ban books that could be harmful to students or cause them “distress.” It’s the same argument used for any teaching of history (think racial injustice) that would make students “uncomfortable.” The state likes to use CRT as an example although no school we know of in Florida teaches CRT.

We could go on. There have been laws proposed that would take away a local government’s ability to require licenses for people doing certain jobs, like painting, etc.

When you look at all the laws, restrictions and rhetoric coming out of Tallahassee that takes power away from local governments and centralizes it in the capital, it is alarming.

 Image Credits: Sun Coast Media Group