In Florida Legislative Session, a Chance for DeSantis to Check Off His Wish List

4 months ago
In Florida Legislative Session, a Chance for DeSantis to Check Off His Wish List.
When Florida lawmakers met for their annual legislative session last year, they championed bills that led to months of headlines for Gov. Ron DeSantis about sexual orientation, abortion, immigration, voting and the teaching of the nation’s racial history.

For this year’s legislative session, which begins Tuesday, DeSantis has a preview: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Emboldened by an overwhelming reelection victory margin and the most compliant Legislature in recent memory, DeSantis is pushing lawmakers to pass the legislation conservatives have been wanting for years.

Lawmakers are preparing to advance bills sought by DeSantis that would require private companies to check their employees’ immigration status. They’re eyeing sweeping changes to limit lawsuits against businesses. They could do away with requiring permits to carry a concealed weapon. More abortion restrictions might be on tap, too, when the 60-day legislative session officially kicks off Tuesday.

It’s an agenda that’s expected to give DeSantis months of headlines — and springboard his anticipated 2024 presidential run. Some of the bills could help shore up his conservative bona fides against fellow Floridian Donald Trump, who has already announced he’s running to take back the White House, and to further endear him to deep-pocketed donors.

“I’ve never seen a governor in my lifetime with this much absolute control of the agenda in Tallahassee as Ron DeSantis,” said lobbyist Brian Ballard, who has been involved in Florida’s legislative sessions since 1986 and supports the governor.

DeSantis is coy about his presidential ambitions, but legislative leaders are prepared to pass a bill allowing him to run without having to resign. Political observers believe he’ll enter the race after the session ends in May.

Already, DeSantis is promising “the most productive session we’ve had,” aided by his 19-point reelection victory.

And the Republican supermajority Legislature has signaled that it’s along for the ride. Lawmakers in his own party have appeared reluctant to challenge him.

The goal over the next two months, according to House and Senate leaders: Get DeSantis’ priorities “ across the finish line.”

Agenda of long-sought reforms

Last year’s legislative session was dominated by “culture war” bills that enraged each party’s base and left lawmakers drained.

The legislation — which included the Parental Rights in Education bill that critics called “don’t say gay” — led to months of headlines in conservative and mainstream media that helped cast DeSantis as the most viable alternative to Trump in a presidential GOP primary.

This year, DeSantis and lawmakers are looking to continue the trend — and check off several bills that failed to get traction in previous years.

DeSantis wants juries to be able to issue the death penalty even when