A guide to Ron DeSantis’s most extreme policies in Florida

“This legislative term, the governor and his fellow Republicans waged culture wars everywhere from the classroom to the bathroom to Disney World, making the state a pioneer of some of the most extreme right-wing policies in the US.
DeSantis’s legislative agenda in Florida — which he has framed as a “blueprint” for America — has targeted immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, Black Americans, and women, as well as the corporations who come to their defense. And state lawmakers have advanced DeSantis’s own political career at the expense of transparency and accountability. That’s all been done in the name of wooing an activist GOP base, which still loves former President Donald Trump and has given him a historically large lead in Republican primary polls.”

“DeSantis signed a law that imposes felony penalties on health care workers who provide gender-affirming care for minors. The law includes a unique provision that could allow some parents to ask Florida courts to override other states’ custody decisions for children receiving gender-affirming care, though it only applies to a narrow set of circumstances. Advocates are challenging parts of the law on an emergency basis in court, arguing that it violates parents’ fundamental rights to make medical decisions for their children and that it violates the Constitution by discriminating against transgender children.”

“Bathroom bill: DeSantis has made it illegal for Floridians to use bathrooms and changing facilities that don’t correspond with their sex at birth.”

“Gender identity: Florida expanded DeSantis’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law to place additional restrictions on the teaching of “human sexuality” through high school and to require that schools promote abstinence from sex outside of marriage and monogamous heterosexual marriage. That law also prevents schools from requiring that teachers use pronouns that align with their students’ gender identity and declares that it is “false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex.””

“Drag shows: He also signed a law that bars establishments from allowing minors to watch an “adult live performance” that “depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities.” Though the law is intended to target drag shows, many drag shows do not include any such content.”

“The legislature has approved a bill that bars most abortions after six weeks, with some exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. In cases of rape and incest, a person would have to provide documentation like a restraining order in order to obtain an abortion up to 15 weeks. The legislation would penalize physicians who knowingly violate its parameters with potential fines or jail time. The policy won’t take effect until the state’s Supreme Court makes a decision on its existing 15-week abortion ban.”

“One new law bars public colleges and universities from funding efforts that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, also known as DEI. DEI programming typically examines disparities and focuses on how marginalized groups can be better represented in staffing or curriculum. Opponents of the law worry that it could drive away students and faculty, while supporters argue that such programs are used to quell dissent.”

“A new policy also bans the state’s public colleges and universities from offering general education courses about “identity politics” and the idea that “systemic racism” is “inherent in the institutions of the United States.” This law expands restrictions DeSantis previously pushed in the K-12 system to higher education.”

“The legislature amplified the state’s efforts at book banning, with a new law that mandates that certain books can be pulled from school shelves for review within five days of a person flagging it as concerning. At least one Florida school district has already faced a lawsuit over its approach to book banning due to concerns that it violates free speech rights.”

“There has been $12 million allocated for flights that DeSantis can use to transport migrants from Florida to other states. DeSantis gained national attention for flying migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha’s Vineyard; and now faces a lawsuit over that stunt.”

“DeSantis signed a law nullifying an agreement that would have allowed Disney to continue to develop and maintain its theme parks in Florida with relative independence. Disney consequently sued DeSantis for waging a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” over the company. It’s part of a long-running feud between the governor and Disney, which started when company executives spoke out last year against what critics call Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation.”

“DeSantis signed a law eliminating the requirements to report where he goes and who he meets with in an official capacity, insulating him from public scrutiny as he launches his presidential campaign.”

“DeSantis signed a law that relaxes campaign finance reporting requirements for state political committees, which currently disclose their fundraising figures monthly. That applies to DeSantis’s state political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, which reported about $86 million cash on hand as of the end of April.”

“the bill introduces new fines for outside voter registration groups and requires they provide a receipt when they help someone fill out a voter registration application — a measure that Democrats say could have a chilling effect on minority voters who tend to register through these groups.”

What ‘Freedom’ Means to Ron DeSantis

“DeSantis talks a lot about freedom, and even more about the supposed threats to it. For the governor, those seem to lurk everywhere, from drag shows to Disney and from undocumented immigrants to corporate “diversity, equity, and inclusion” efforts. In his new book, titled The Courage To Be Free, and in speeches like the one he gave on April 1 to a crowd of local elected officials and conservative activists in central Pennsylvania, DeSantis portrays Florida as a place that’s been able to withstand the myriad assaults on freedom because he’s been willing (and eager) to deploy the power of the state.
But he rarely offers much in the way of a definition of freedom, preferring instead, one assumes, to let everyone in the audience define the thing for themselves. When he does get into specifics, it’s usually to draw some telling distinctions.

“For years, the default conservative posture has been to limit government,” he writes in the new book. That idea must be discarded, he adds: “Elected officials who do nothing more than get out of the way are essentially green-lighting these institutions to continue their unimpeded march through society.”

This is no small thing. For ages, conservatives have often echoed the libertarian idea that government is the greatest threat to Americans’ freedom. DeSantis postulates a different idea: What if it isn’t?”

“DeSantis got a warm reception and earned several extended ovations—the longest and loudest, by far, coming after he promised to support legislation in Florida to revoke medical licenses from doctors who perform gender-affirming surgeries on minors.

At the risk of stating the obvious, that’s a limitation on Floridians’ freedoms. Imposing such limits has been a recurring element of DeSantis’ term. He is now pushing for even more, including felony charges for anyone who shelters or employs undocumented immigrants and a new ban on abortion after just six weeks of pregnancy. It’s a tricky thing to sell this impulse to regulate individuals’ choices as a campaign to protect freedom. But that’s what DeSantis is trying to do at events like the Pennsylvania conference.”

“You can have the freedom to send your kid to any school you’d like in Florida—as long as it’s a school that teaches a curriculum the governor approves.”

States Try to Reform Prostitution Laws—for Better and Worse

“State lawmakers in at least six states have recently introduced bills related to sex work. Some of these measures would decriminalize prostitution, while others would stipulate stronger criminal penalties for prostitution.
States considering the former have the right idea. Decriminalizing prostitution has been linked to an array of positive outcomes, from lower rates of sexual violence and sexually transmitted infections overall to less violence against sex workers. It means fewer law enforcement resources wasted on policing consensual activity between adults, freeing up time and money for stopping and solving serious crimes. It’s supported by organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, and the World Health Organization. It’s also in line with what sex workers around the world say they need.”

Florida’s Rejection of an AP African American Studies Course Is a Rejection of School Choice

“The College Board is a nonprofit organization that administers college entrance exams and develops Advanced Placement (AP) courses for high school students that earn them college credits. They’ve developed a pilot program for an African American Studies class that they plan to launch in 60 schools across the U.S. over the next school year. They did intend for one Florida school to offer the class. They hope to start offering the class in all high schools by the 2024–25 school year and begin administering exams in spring 2025. High school students who pass those exams would earn college credit for taking the class.
Florida’s Department of Education looked at the class, and flat-out rejected it, with officials saying it would indoctrinate students with “a political agenda” and lacked educational value. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Press Secretary Bryan Griffin* said, “As submitted, the course is a vehicle for a political agenda and leaves large, ambiguous gaps that can be filled with additional ideological material, which we will not allow.”

Well, it is a history class, after all. Once you get past the names and dates, history studies political agendas and ideology. Certainly, that would have to be the case for a black history class in America.”

“No AP class is mandatory. Parents and students can decide whether they want to it.”

Migrating Americans Seek Lower Taxes and Greater Freedom

“”Millions of people moved during the pandemic, driven by the opportunity to work remotely, the desire for more space, and better affordability,” Nadia Evangelou, senior economist for the National Association of Realtors, wrote January 30. “Twenty-six states experienced an influx of people, with more people moving in than out, while twenty-five states lost movers … California (-343,230), New York (-299,557), and Illinois (-141,656) experienced the largest net domestic outmigration.”
California, New York, and Illinois lost the greatest number of people in raw numbers during 2022, but they were also all in the top ten in terms of the net percentage of population that left each state. New York lost 0.9 percent, Illinois lost 0.8 percent, and California lost 0.3 percent (tying with Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Rhode Island).

These states all have something else in common: high tax burdens. “Tax burden measures the proportion of total personal income that residents pay toward state and local taxes,” notes WalletHub, which ranks states by the measure. Using an assessment based on property taxes, individual income taxes, and sales and excise taxes, WalletHub ranks New York as the most highly taxed state in the country, puts California in ninth position, and Illinois at 10.”

The Freedom Caucus Was Designed To Disrupt By Kaleigh Rogers

“By Thanksgiving 2014, Fleming and a handful of other members were at their wits’ end, so they decided to form their own group. In early 2015, the Freedom Caucus was born. It was designed to be very selective about its closed, sometimes secretive membership — only ultraconservatives allowed — in order to serve as what Fleming calls the conservative “anchor” of the GOP in the House. Its members would attempt to tow the party toward the right, and once they staked out a position, they wouldn’t budge.
While the Freedom Caucus had policy goals in mind, most of its work has focused on disrupting and altering the internal workings of the House. If it could wrest away some of the speaker’s power, the thinking went, more conservative legislation might have a better shot at passing. One early and consistent way the Freedom Caucus did this was by voting against House rules, slowing down the legislative process and making it harder for bills that the caucus wasn’t happy with to come up for a vote. But it also took some bigger swings. While the Freedom Caucus didn’t agree to former Rep. Mark Meadows’s decision to file a motion to vacate the chair in the summer of 2015 in an effort to oust Boehner, it backed him after the fact, and that consensus was part of what led Boehner to resign as speaker.

Part of what makes the Freedom Caucus a unique intraparty faction is also its greatest strength. If 80 percent of its members agree to a position or action, everyone has to be on board. That’s different from other groups throughout American history, according to Matthew Green, a professor of politics at The Catholic University of America and the author of a book about the Freedom Caucus. It isn’t just a group of likeminded members; it’s also an effective, disruptive voting bloc that stands together. Members are willing to do this because in order to get to that 80 percent threshold, there’s a lot of debate and persuading internally, according to former Rep. Raúl Labrador, one of the founding members of the Freedom Caucus and now Idaho’s attorney general. “The best debates I ever had in Washington, D.C., were in the Freedom Caucus,” Labrador said.

Another difference is the caucus’s willingness to buck the speaker and establishment — a disposition that can come with political consequences, which is why intraparty factions have historically avoided such sparring.

“That’s a big ask. That’s a risky thing to do,” Green said. “The speaker is powerful, the speaker has powerful friends and you’re risking your committee assignments. You could put your fundraising abilities in danger.”

These differences are part of how the Freedom Caucus has leveraged its relatively small size (it’s estimated to have around 40 members currently, though exact membership numbers are not public) to have outsized impact. Perhaps most notably, it aligned behind former President Donald Trump more resolutely than the Republican Party establishment, gaining access and influence through the White House. (To wit: Many former Freedom Caucus members, including Meadows and Fleming, went on to hold positions in Trump’s administration.)

Now, with the GOP holding just a narrow majority in the House, the Freedom Caucus can wield its unity and antagonism to even sharper effect. As the vote for speaker demonstrated, a group even half the size of the Freedom Caucus can hold the chamber hostage for days. So when fully unified, just imagine what it might unleash.”

What’s The Deal With The Freedom Caucus?

“The Freedom Caucus’s obsession with smaller government can border on indifference toward any governing at all. Its members used to prioritize fiscal conservatism, but recently they’ve been criticized for obstructing just for obstructionism’s sake. In Boehner’s words, “They can’t tell you what they’re for. They can tell you everything they’re against.””

Making the GOP Liberty-Friendly Requires More Than Just Rejecting Donald Trump

“So if the Republican Party finally rejects Trump, is that also a rejection of the authoritarian and illiberal impulses his political career has amplified? I’m open to being pleasantly surprised, but so far, the evidence answers with a resounding “no.” Even if Trump loses this primary race, there’s every reason to think his party will retain its present will to power.
At The Bulwark this week, Jonathan V. Last documented a telling contrast between Republicans’ rationales for rejecting Trump now and their original objections to his candidacy in 2015 and 2016. Back then, GOP critiques of Trump were grounded in language about policy and governing principles or personal character, or both. Now the repudiation is openly transactional: Trump loses, and Republicans don’t want to lose.”

Jared Polis’ Success Shows That Democrats Can Win Without Embracing Big Government

“While Colorado was once considered a solid swing state, Polis’ continued success as governor, as well as the state’s other electoral outcomes, have entrenched the state’s Democratic leanings. However, Polis’ popularity shows that Democrats can receive solid victories without relying on the increasing technocratic impulses of the party as a whole. While other Democrats—and increasingly Republicans as well—turn to government to solve problems, Polis has found success by wanting to reduce government power.”

“While other Democratic governors were enacting strict COVID-19 regulations, Polis lifted mask mandates. While other Democrats scoffed at school choice, Polis, the founded of two charter schools, praised polices that increase educational choice. While other Democrats called for wealth taxes, Polis called on an end to Colorado’s income tax.
“I respect freedom,” Polis told Reason in July 2022. “It’s great because you’re free to be the way you want. That’s the way it should be.”

While the Democratic party—not to mention American politics as a whole—is trending towards embracing government control, Jared Polis offers a rare story of a politician that wants to reduce state power. His success offers evidence that an alternative approach, one where Democrats embrace rather than attack personal liberty, can be a wildly successful strategy.”