A double doozy out of the Sunshine State, which just always has to one-up everyone else in unhinged and disgraceful headlines.
As the East Coast capital of the culture wars, the Florida legislature has over the past few days advanced a pair of unconscionable bills that truly embody punching down.
First, after being forced to listen to annoying appeals to their shriveled humanity, House Republicans passed a bill that would ban trans girls from competing in girls’ high school sports. Worse, the ban would be enforced through barbaric means, subjecting anyone who is suspected of not being a birth female to a genital examination. And even worse than that, the specifics of the process would be decided by the state board of education, which happens to be chaired by the father of the bill’s lead sponsor, state Rep. Kaylee Tuck. It’s safe to assume that integrity and empathy do not run in the family.
It has been heartening to see Democrats standing up against this bill, with the charge led by young progressives like Reps. Anna Eskamani, Carlos Smith, and Michele Rayner. They have been bold and blunt, with Rayner calling it “state-sanctioned sexual assault against children.”
Meanwhile, Republicans in the state Senate just passed an “anti-riot” bill that will more or less criminalize protesting. The bill has been a priority of goon Gov. Ron DeSantis, who continues to cater to his far-right, Trumpian base as he shores up support for an upcoming presidential run. It would create mandatory prison sentences for “crimes” like “disorderly assembly. It’s just gross:
The parts of the bill (HB 1) that most upset Democrats grant civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road; prevent people arrested for rioting or offenses committed during a riot from bailing out of jail until their first court appearance; and impose a six-month mandatory sentence for battery on a police officer during a riot.
Imagine passing this right as the country learns about the police murders of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 20-year-old Daunte Wright. They are so very clearly just itching to hurt and arrest Black people.
They also want to hurt working people — Florida is also moving forward on bills that busts up unions despite vehement protest and further attacks voting rights. And DeSantis is trying to go even further than his legislature on hurting the unemployed:
This is more of the same from DeSantis, who has been blatantly racist throughout his career. He’s also been unbelievably cruel, and throughout the entire pandemic based his decisions on politics and sociopathy, not compassion or even competence. DeSantis’s ignorance and stubbornness rivaled only that of Donald Trump and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s. Just look at this timeline I put together for my newsletter/site:
- July 12th: Florida sets the national record with over 15,000 new cases in a single day.
- August 7th: DeSantis and his education commissioner threatened to withhold funding from schools that did not open up to in-person classes five days a week.
- August 24th: A judge rules that they could not extort school districts if teachers and health officials did not believe it was safe to resume in-person classes.
- September 10th: DeSantis allowed bars and restaurants to reopen for indoor service. Cities such as Tallahassee and Panama City continue to record increases in COVID-19 cases.
- September 25th: DeSantis reopens the entire state. He goes so far as to ban any cities from creating more than a 50% capacity restriction on restaurants, bars, and other locations where the disease is known to spread.
Even more egregiously, DeSantis ran an obvious cover-up of COVID deaths down the stretch in October and November, helping Donald Trump win the state and then seizing the computers of the whistleblower who was trying to keep an honest count.
The state has officially suffered more than 34,000 deaths, and again, it’s probably way more than that. Worse, so many of them were preventable, had DeSantis listened to science instead of burnishing his strong-man image and national ambitions:
As Florida became a global epicenter of the coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantis held one meeting this month with his top public health official, Scott Rivkees, according to the governor’s schedule. His health department has sidelined scientists, halting briefings last month with disease specialists and telling the experts there was not sufficient personnel from the state to continue participating.
As the virus spread out of control in Florida, decision-making became increasingly shaped by politics and divorced from scientific evidence, according to interviews with 64 current and former state and administration officials, health administrators, epidemiologists, political operatives and hospital executives. The crisis in Florida, these observers say, has revealed the shortcomings of a response built on shifting metrics, influenced by a small group of advisers and tethered at every stage to the Trump administration.
This is the guy that Republicans are beginning to tout as a potential real contender for the 2024 nomination if Donald Trump doesn’t run. This is the best they have. And as we’re seeing, the media is too often giving him a pass for the disaster that’s happening in Florida.
Oh, add this one to the pile: The state’s unforgivably broken unemployment system is still not fixed — it crashed again today.
Note: Want the most important stories in local, state, and progressive politics before everyone else? My newsletter, Progressives Everywhere, has your back. Every week I run big reported feature stories, including this inside look at the new gun control movement and interviews with top progressive candidates and lawmakers. It includes experts talking about voter suppression, student debt, and Democratic policy victories. It also supports groups that are helping build progressive election power and retake red states — we’ve raised over $6 million for them already. Every sign-up helps in so many ways.
It’s free! You can subscribe to the newsletter here!