Extend the 'Don't Say Gay' law into high schools.
Ron DeSantis used his executive power to promote elements of his conservative agenda. He has drawn on state Constitution appointees and boards in a deliberate way as he works towards a presidential run.
This approach demonstrates the Republican's willingness and ability to use his office to score political wins and punish political foes, even though the GOP-dominated Legislature has sped through his proposals through the statehouse. It also reveals the meticulous style underpinning his public persona, and gives hints as to how he might govern if elected president.
The unilateral moves by DeSantis are part of his wide mandate as the elected chief executives of Florida. Following a dominating reelection win last fall, he campaigned for a range of conservative policies that helped energize the Republican base in Florida and help flip reliably Democratic counties like Miami-Dade.
"November's election results are a validation of our collective efforts over the past four years. In addition to giving us the chance to lead, the results also give us the responsibility of leading," DeSantis stated to lawmakers in his annual address that opened the legislative session in this year's inaugural year. In this endeavor, let boldness be your friend. There is so much we must accomplish.
DeSantis's spokesperson said that he had compiled an accurate accounting of his powers following his election to ensure he could effectively implement his agenda. He also stated that the Legislature has adopted many of his policies.
Through his refusal to be subject to coronavirus lockdowns, DeSantis has gained a national following. He has also positioned himself at the forefront of the nation's culture conflicts. After the end of the regular session of the state Legislature in May, DeSantis will officially launch his bid for White House.
DeSantis has been increasing his out-of state travel by visiting presidential battleground states. The supermajority of statehouse Republicans is already working quickly to fulfill several of DeSantis’ conservative priorities. This will give him additional momentum before he announces that he is running for president.
Although DeSantis is considered to be former President Donald Trump’s most formidable Republican opponent, it may prove difficult for him to win the presidency. After he was first to be charged with criminal offenses as a former president, many GOP voters have rallied around Trump. Republicans, including DeSantis are now in a difficult position to defend Trump against politically motivated charges after the Manhattan district attorney's move.
These headwinds make DeSantis’ activity in Florida even more important. They support the argument of his supporters that DeSantis would pursue the same policy agenda and Trump without the constant turmoil.
One of his signature policies prohibits teachers from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity to children in kindergarten through third grade. This is a policy that opponents call 'Don't Say Gay'. Although DeSantis didn't initially advocate for the law, he has championed it in Florida since then as part of his fight against what DeSantis calls the "woke" indoctrination of schoolchildren.
As lawmakers seemed ready to extend the prohibition to the eighth-grade, the DeSantis administration quietly submitted an administrative proposal to state education regulators, which would prohibit the subjects being taught in any grade.
The state education department is headed by a DeSantis appointee. It will be reviewed by the state Board of Education later in the month, a state body that has been appointed by the governor. It doesn't require legislative approval.
DeSantis did not comment on the proposal. He posed questions to Manny Diaz Jr. Education Commissioner, who stated that it was intended to clarify confusion surrounding the existing law and remind teachers not to deviate form existing curriculums.
Last year, the governor followed a similar strategy. He and his health department campaigned against gender affirming care for minors. They also pushed for state health regulators ban these treatments.
Two state boards approved the prohibition and it went into effect in this year. It bans minors from sex reassignment surgery and puberty-blocking therapies. The Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo is a DeSantis appointed. He said that the treatments were experimental and dangerous for children.
Brandon Wolf, the press secretary of Equality Florida, warned about the possibility for similar actions under a possible DeSantis presidency.
Wolf stated that DeSantis would use the same methods he used to pervert and weaponize state agencies and boards in Florida to do the same thing at the federal level. "What makes him even more dangerous than Donald Trump? DeSantis actually understands how government works.
Jamie Miller, an ex-executive director of the Republican Party of Florida said that it was difficult to predict what type of president DeSantis will be, but noted that the governor's Florida policies won broad support last fall.
Miller said that 'our entire system is based upon conducting the will of majority while protecting rights of minority', referring to the governor's win by nearly 20 percent.
DeSantis' agenda in Florida has been met with few substantive hurdles. Democrats are not allowed to hold any power in state government, and DeSantis' policies often stand up to legal challenges from conservative appeals courts.
The governor is still open to dissent as demonstrated by his ongoing feuding with Disney.
His ire was piqued last year by the company, which had criticized the Don't Say Gay' laws. As punishment, DeSantis pushed lawmakers for control over a district Disney manages within its theme park properties.
However, before any new DeSantis appointees could take control of the district's affairs, Disney's board passed restrictive covenants which stripped the incoming members most of their powers. This blunted the governor's retaliation.
DeSantis is determined to keep one of his most important political victories. He sent another appointee as chief inspector general to investigate the Disney board's actions and has promised to take further revenge against the company.
Last year, Andrew Warren was suspended by DeSantis. He used a provision of the state Constitution to suspend Warren. This allows a governor or other official to dismiss them for incompetence, neglect, or misconduct.
DeSantis stated that Warren signed statements stating he would not pursue criminal charges against anyone seeking or providing abortions or gender transition treatment as the key reason for his executive order.
DeSantis announced the suspension by stating, "When you flagrantly break your oath, when you elevate yourself above the law and you violate your duty, then you have failed to fulfill your duties.
Warren immediately filed a federal suit to get his job back. DeSantis had removed Warren in violation of the First Amendment and Florida Constitution, but the judge found that federal courts are not able to restore him. Warren appeals the decision.
Warren stated in an interview that "He loves to talk Florida's free state, but it's absolutely no free unless everyone Ron DeSantis believes." "He exploits cracks in our system to trample upon both the spirit of the law and the letter to punish those who disagree with his views."