“Florida State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R–St. Petersburg), who shepherded the bill implementing Amendment 4, tweeted last week that the Legislature never intended it to be used so harshly against those who accidentally voted.”
“”As the author of the bill implementing amend 4 it was our intent that those ineligible would be granted some grace by the state if they registered without intent to commit voter fraud. Some of the individuals did check with SOEs and believed they could register. #Intentmatters””
“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a leading presidential contender, is skilled at appealing to Republicans who resent the censorious self-righteousness of woke progressives. But instead of defending free inquiry and open debate, DeSantis seems bent on fighting intolerance with intolerance.
When he signed the Individual Freedom Act (IFA) last April, DeSantis bragged that it would “prevent discriminatory instruction in the workplace,” striking a blow against “the far-left woke agenda.” But as a federal judge explained last week, the law’s restrictions on employee training blatantly violate the First Amendment.
The IFA expanded Florida’s definition of “unlawful employment practices” to include “any required activity” that promotes one or more of eight forbidden concepts. Some of those ideas are plainly illiberal (e.g., linking moral status to race) or patently silly (e.g., viewing virtues such as excellence, hard work, and fairness as white supremacist constructs), while others are ambiguous or debatable (e.g., the notion that “members of one race, color, sex, or national origin cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race, color, sex, or national origin”).
Whatever you think of those ideas, the government has no business decreeing whether and how they can be discussed in private workplaces. Yet that is what the IFA does: It allows discussion “in an objective manner without endorsement of the concepts” while forbidding speech that “espouses, promotes, advances, [or] inculcates” them.
As U.S. District Judge Mark Walker noted when he issued a preliminary injunction against those restrictions, they amount to “a naked viewpoint-based regulation on speech,” which is presumptively unconstitutional. “Under our constitutional scheme,” Walker observed, “the ‘remedy’ for repugnant speech ‘is more speech, not enforced silence.'”
DeSantis argued that the IFA aims to prevent a “hostile work environment” created by ideas that might discomfit employees. Walker thought that was a stretch because that term encompasses speech only when it is “both objectively and subjectively offensive and when it is sufficiently severe or pervasive”—requirements that provide “shelter for core protected speech.”
More to the point, conservatives have long criticized discrimination claims based on an allegedly hostile work environment precisely because they can transform otherwise protected speech into illegal “harassment.” Yet DeSantis is not only defending that concept; he is extending it to cover even a single “required activity” that “espouses” ideas he does not like.”
“Two big legal questions are germane to the stunt: one relating to how migrants were induced to board flights and the other relating to using state funds. Legal experts, lawmakers, and the architects of the flights are now debating what was and wasn’t legally permissible about the scheme.
DeSantis, for his part, has said the migrant flights were “clearly voluntary.” Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for DeSantis, shared with Axios a redacted consent form for the flight. That form mentions a “final destination of Massachusetts” and holds “the benefactor or its designated representatives harmless of all liability” incurred during the journey, which it says is meant to transport the signatory “to locations in sanctuary States.”
Though much of the form is translated into Spanish, the mention of Massachusetts as the final destination is not. The only mention of Massachusetts in the Spanish portion of the redacted document is a handwritten abbreviation: “MA.”
Three of the migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard filed a lawsuit against DeSantis..alleging that Florida officials “made false promises and false representations” that if they “were willing to board airplanes to other states, they would receive employment, housing, educational opportunities, and other like assistance upon their arrival.” The lawsuit notes that a woman “gathered several dozen people…to sign a document in order to receive a $10 McDonald’s gift card.” Per the suit, the woman didn’t explain what the consent form said. Migrants interviewed by NPR also explained that the same woman promised they would be flown to Boston and receive expedited work papers if they boarded the flights in San Antonio.
With this background in mind, some commentators have suggested the flight scheme may have run afoul of Texas law. Under title 5, chapter 20 of the Texas penal code, the crime of “unlawful restraint,” or restricting someone’s movement without consent, includes actions that involve “force, intimidation, or deception.” An unlawful restraint offense is a misdemeanor, except when the victim is under 17 years old—then it’s a state jail felony. At least some of the migrants DeSantis sent to Martha’s Vineyard were children.
Legal experts surveyed by Politico suggested that federal criminal trafficking statutes weren’t relevant unless migrants were transported against their will. If coercion was involved, the legality becomes much murkier. “If someone is told, ‘Hey, get on the bus. We’re going to Chicago because we have a job for you’ and it’s not true, that person has been victimized,” said Steven Block, a Chicago lawyer and former assistant U.S. attorney who dealt with trafficking and corruption cases.
The matter of state funds is at least slightly easier to distill. Florida’s 2021–2022 budget set aside $12,000,000 to implement “a program to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state consistent with federal law.” Funds that weren’t spent in 2021–2022 rolled over to be used for the same purpose in 2022–2023. This is the pot through which DeSantis financed the Martha’s Vineyard flights, and the governor says he’ll spend “every penny” of it to “make sure that we’re protecting the people of the state of Florida.”
The 2022–2023 spending bill explicitly provides money for transporting migrants “from this state.” That would seem to indicate an origin in Florida. But the Martha’s Vineyard flights originated in San Antonio, which DeSantis acknowledges. Florida Democrats are now questioning whether this rendered the flights illegal. They are attempting to block funding for the relocation effort. A potential sticking point is that the flights were routed through Crestview, Florida, before reaching Martha’s Vineyard, ostensibly to refuel.
Geography aside, the migrants’ immigration status may also clash with the Florida budget language. State Sen. Aaron Bean (R–Jacksonville) stated in March that the relocation scheme wouldn’t apply to people who had requested asylum in the U.S. after fleeing communist or socialist countries since “they are here lawfully.” Further, the 2022–2023 budget specifies that the relocation scheme only applies to people who are “unlawfully present” in the country.
After crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, the migrants now suing DeSantis—all recent immigrants from Venezuela—turned themselves over to federal immigration officials, the lawsuit explains. Each has “active federal proceedings to adjudicate their immigration status,” which authorizes them to stay in the United States unless their immigration court proceedings determine otherwise.”
“As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues his culture war campaign against abortion providers and members of the LGBT community, prosecutors who choose to defy the governor’s edicts may soon find themselves out of a job.
Last Thursday, DeSantis signed an executive order suspending Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, a progressive prosecutor who had previously pledged his office would not prosecute women seeking abortions or pursue criminal charges against those pursuing gender-affirming health care. “State Attorneys have a duty to prosecute crimes as defined in Florida law, not to pick and choose which laws to enforce based on his personal agenda,” DeSantis said in a statement.
Warren was first elected in 2016, defeating a longtime Republican incumbent with the support of liberal donor George Soros. Despite clashing with law enforcement over his refusal to prosecute minor offenses, Warren was reelected in 2020. Warren has said he will fight the governor’s suspension in court.
Article 4, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution allows the governor to suspend local officials for “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony” and to appoint a temporary successor. The Florida Senate must approve a permanent removal from office and confirm the governor’s replacement appointments.
Previous governors have reserved that power for extreme cases of incompetence and malfeasance. In the last weeks of his governorship, then-Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, suspended Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, a Democrat, after her office came under fire for its mismanagement of the 2018 midterm elections.
Snipes was the second consecutive Broward elections chief to receive a pink slip from Tallahassee; her predecessor, Miriam Oliphant, had been suspended by then-Gov. Jeb Bush in September 2003 after a task force report investigating her disastrous handling of the 2002 elections* revealed countless administrative failures in the county elections office, including hundreds of uncounted ballots found in filing cabinets and a gravely understaffed office. Neighboring Palm Beach County also saw their elections supervisor, Susan Bucher, receive the boot in January 2019, this time from DeSantis. Snipes and Bucher both resigned from their positions.
DeSantis also suspended embattled Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel early in his tenure, after an investigation into the 2018 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting found Israel and the Broward Sheriff’s Office responded to the massacre with “incompetence” and “negligence.” He then appointed Coral Springs Sergeant Gregory Tony as Israel’s replacement. The Florida Senate officially removed Israel from office in October 2019.
However, suspending a prosecutor for using their discretion sets a troubling precedent. Many prosecutors across the U.S., including federal prosecutors, prioritize their resources to go after offenders who pose a threat to public safety and civil society. It is simply not possible for prosecutors to devote equal resources to every type of offense.
Even when prosecutors adopt policies that seem political, the governor has less extreme tools for making sure that justice is done. When former Orange-Osceola County State Attorney Aramis Ayala, a Democrat now running for state attorney general, announced that her office would no longer pursue the death penalty, Gov. Scott reassigned 30 murder cases to a different State Attorney, prompting Ayala to sue.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled that Scott’s decision to reassign cases from Ayala’s office was a legitimate use of the governor’s powers. “The executive orders reassigning the death-penalty eligible cases in the Ninth Circuit to King fall well ‘within the bounds’ of the Governor’s ‘broad authority,'” the majority opinion explained. DeSantis himself used that same ruling to reassign homicide cases from Ayala’s office in 2020. However, neither governor suspended or removed her from her position.
What’s more, DeSantis has declined to use his executive authority to suspend sheriffs who refused to enforce gun restrictions. Meanwhile, DeSantis has allowed state education officials to ignore federal anti-discrimination laws designed to protect LGBT students and teachers in Florida public schools.
Many lawmakers have expressed concerns that the suspension encroaches on the separation of powers between the governor and local governments in the state, something they see as contradicting DeSantis’ messaging advertising his vision of a “free Florida.”
“Removing a duly elected official should be based on egregious actions—not political statements,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor tweeted in response to the governor’s executive order. Like many Democrats in the state, she believes that the governor is thwarting the will of voters in her city by suspending Warren. “In a free state, voters should choose their elected officials.””
“Florida’s medical board on Friday voted to begin the process of banning gender-affirming medical treatment for youths, a move that comes as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has become increasingly vocal in his opposition to such therapies.”
“The board also voted to start that process for requiring adults seeking such care to wait 24 hours before going forward with any medical procedures.”
“The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association support gender-affirming care for adults and adolescents. But medical experts said gender-affirming care for children rarely, if ever, includes surgery. Instead, doctors are more likely to recommend counseling, social transitioning and hormone replacement therapy.
The proposed rule is the latest step taken by the DeSantis administration to tighten regulatory controls over gender-affirming care. Florida’s Medicaid regulator is also considering a rule that would block state-subsidized health care from paying for treatments of transgender people.”
“Several Florida conservatives who question President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory could be heading to Congress in November, thanks to the state’s contentious redistricting process muscled through the Legislature by Gov. Ron DeSantis.”
“In March, DeSantis signed into law H.B. 1577, which described itself as “an act relating to parental rights in education.” The bill limits discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in public school instruction and authorizes parents to sue school districts that break the vaguely written rules.
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek initially tried to keep the company publicly neutral on the bill. But after it passed, Chapek and Disney, responding to pressure from the company’s employees, both spoke out against H.B. 1577.
Irked by the criticism, DeSantis and Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature took aim at the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), which state lawmakers established in 1967 to give Disney substantial autonomy within the nearly 40 square miles it owns in Orange and Osceola counties. The special district allows Disney to control zoning, construction, infrastructure, emergency services, and taxation to pay for all of it.
While Florida has more than 1,800 special districts, Republicans targeted Disney by restricting the bill to districts established prior to 1968. DeSantis made it clear when he signed the bill that it was punishment for criticism of H.B. 1577. “You’re a corporation in Burbank, California, and you’re going to marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state,” he said. “We view that as a provocation, and we’re going to fight back.” The bill would dissolve the RCID and five other pre-1968 districts in 2023.
While DeSantis and other Florida Republicans seem to view the RCID as an undeserved privilege, it freed Orange and Osceola counties, along with their taxpayers, from responsibility for Disney’s massive park. For instance, Disney pays the Orange County Sheriff’s Office millions of dollars each year for policing services. Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings said it would be “catastrophic” for the county’s budget if it had to pay for first-responder services in the park. DeSantis suggested in May that the state could take over the district.
The RCID also has $1 billion in bond debt. In an April statement to bondholders, Reedy Creek representatives said the district cannot be dissolved under Florida law unless those debts are paid off.
What happens next is not entirely clear, although an early attempt by a group of nearby taxpayers to sue DeSantis was dismissed due to lack of standing. Some First Amendment scholars suggested that Disney could challenge the law as a form of unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.”
“Ray shared data showing that workers would need to make almost $30 an hour in order to rent a standard two-bedroom apartment in the Miami area without experiencing cost burdens. As of 2021, Miami’s median hourly wage was $18.59, creating a situation where many residents are forced to spend upward of 50 percent of their incomes on housing alone. The conventional financial wisdom is that households should spend no more than 30 percent of their incomes on rent.
Already in 2019, some were sounding the alarm about Miami’s rising housing prices. One study commissioned by the housing group Miami Houses for All in collaboration with city and county officials found that Miami was the third-most expensive metropolitan area in the entire country for housing costs. The same study found that over 50 percent of households in Miami were spending more than they could afford on rents and mortgage payments.”
“Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a law, later signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, that raised the age to buy long guns, including AR-15-style rifles, from 18 to 21; required a three-day waiting period between when a firearm is purchased and when the buyer can get access to that gun; allowed trained school staff to carry guns; and put $400 million toward mental health services and school security.
It also created an extreme risk law, or “red flag law,” that can bar individuals who are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others from possessing firearms — a measure that has gotten increasing attention in the wake of the recent streak of mass shootings as a policy solution that could draw bipartisan support nationally and in other states.”
“Florida’s red flag law allows the police to petition a judge for what’s called an “extreme risk protection order,” which can temporarily bar an individual from having a gun for up to a year. Police have to provide evidence that the individual poses “significant danger” to themselves or the public, which can include recent violent acts or threats of violence. If the individual continues to pose such a danger after one year, police can seek a one-time extension for another year.”
“Florida’s red flag law has been identified as a potential model for other red states. But at the moment, it doesn’t seem as though there is a critical mass of Republicans who are interested in enacting red flag laws in states that don’t already have them. That’s true even in Texas and Oklahoma, where Republican lawmakers haven’t budged in the wake of the Uvalde and Tulsa shootings.”
“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed legislation that strips Walt Disney World of its independent, special-district status after the company objected to the state’s new law regarding discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms. While the motive behind this action is problematic, some of its supporters argue that there is nothing to fret about, since it was time to revoke a cronyist privilege granted to Disney 50 years ago anyway. But if this is really a fight against cronyism, the legislation goes about it the wrong way.
Cronyism is the unhealthy alliance of business and government. It takes the form of government officials at the state, local, and federal levels granting special privileges to particular companies or industries. These privileges can include special tax breaks, government loans, direct subsidies, or—as in Florida—so-called “special districts.” I spend a great deal of my work hours researching the harm cronyism causes to citizens. That’s because, as my colleague Matthew Mitchell wrote a decade ago, “Whatever its guise, government-granted privilege [to private businesses] is an extraordinarily destructive force. It misdirects resources, impedes genuine economic progress, breeds corruption, and undermines the legitimacy of both the government and the private sector.”
So, is Disney benefiting from a handout that should be stripped away? Yes, Disney certainly has been getting an incredible privilege to act as its own government within the limits of Orange and Osceola counties. For instance, it runs its fire department, administers planning and zoning rules, writes building codes, employs its own inspectors, and is exempted from local regulations and some $200 million in taxes. It levies the remainder of the taxes it owes.
Removing special district status means these types of responsibilities would be absorbed by the two counties in which Walt Disney World sits. Local taxpayers would then shoulder the cost for all municipal services on the property—a cost estimated to be $1 billion. The company, in turn, would be subjected to the same subpar local government services and regulations that most of us are accustomed to. In addition, Florida will be tied up in years of costly litigation to figure out how to disentangle the company from the counties.
But maybe untangling this special treatment is worth the cost. Just don’t expect it to result in a fairer regime. Indeed, if this setup is so unacceptable—a claim most Republicans didn’t seem to make for the half-century the special district has been in place—it should also be unacceptable for the other 1,844 Florida special districts. Of these, 1,288 are, like Disney, independent districts. But we aren’t hearing significant Republican complaints about these.
In other words, GOPers want to continue the practice of extending privileges selectively. What legislators should have done is decide whether any such special districts are a good idea. If so, access to them should be made available to any company that meets certain minimum and clear criteria and denied to any company that does not.”
“This episode should serve as a warning for companies angling to score special privileges from government. Governments give arbitrarily and unfairly, and they take back with equal arbitrariness and unfairness. In addition, when a company’s profitability depends heavily on government largesse, it must make sure not to anger its government overlords. Disney obviously failed to do that.
This sad affair has done nothing to change cronyism in the state of Florida, but it has once again exposed the arbitrariness of government in our lives and the cost of depending on its favors.”