Florida Legislature Ends Session with DeSantis’ Conservative Wish List Enacted

Florida Legislature Ends Session with DeSantis’ Conservative Wish List Enacted

Florida’s legislative session ended on Friday, marking the end of a 60-day Republican push to send major bills to Governor Ron DeSantis, who is widely seen as former President Donald Trump’s top rival for the 2024 Republican nomination. DeSantis is expected to reveal his political plans after the session adjourns; he may announce a presidential exploratory committee as soon as mid-May, according to NBC News. If he enters the race, DeSantis will ride into the presidential fray on a wave of new state policy that enacts much of the governor’s conservative wish list.

Florida’s GOP supermajorities in the House and Senate largely made good on their promise to get DeSantis’ agenda “across the finish line,” passing bills on issues ranging from abortion to guns to school vouchers. The Legislature leaned into the polarizing cultural fights that have helped elevate the governor nationally, bolstering his efforts to craft an image of a leader who takes on hot-button topics and delivers conservative outcomes. Measures like the restrictive abortion law DeSantis signed could help him in a GOP primary, but may reduce his appeal in a general election.

Lawmakers have also passed multiple measures that could help clear DeSantis’ path to the White House, if and when he decides to run. The Legislature voted last week to carve out a DeSantis-shaped exemption to the state’s “Resign-to-Run” law, by allowing candidates for president or vice president to run without giving up their jobs in Florida. Another measure effectively shields DeSantis’ travel records from public view.

While a Republican trifecta has empowered DeSantis in Florida, he has come under heavy fire from Trump and appears to be trending lower in polls of the possible primary field, raising questions about his appeal outside his state. His polling gap with Trump, the current frontrunner for the 2024 nomination, has never been wider, according to FiveThirtyEight’s primary polling tracker.

Republicans gained two-thirds majorities in Florida’s House and Senate in the November midterms, when Democrats broadly underperformed across the state. With the Legislature and the governor’s mansion in political alignment and facing few obstacles, state lawmakers churned through legislation with unprecedented speed.

DeSantis’ agenda was stymied on a few key issues. Legislation that would have weakened media protections against defamation claims was apparently shelved in what was seen as a blow to the governor. A bill that would lower the minimum rifle-buying age to 18 passed in the state House but faced opposition from the Republican Senate president, Kathleen Passidomo.

The governor has nevertheless racked up a long list of political accomplishments in a condensed period, potentially giving him a firmer footing from which to launch a presidential bid. DeSantis’ moves could play well in a Republican primary, where candidates will likely spar over who has the most conservative record on those issues.


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