Florida Legislature Passes Record Budget and Tax Package, Controversial Bills Mark Session

Florida lawmakers have concluded their legislative session by passing a record $117 billion budget and an accompanying $1.3 billion tax package.[0] The budget and tax package were key priorities of Governor Ron DeSantis, who has successfully pushed Republican lawmakers to fulfill his conservative agenda. The tax package includes a series of expanded sales-tax “holidays” on back-to-school items, disaster-preparedness gear, and summer events.[1] It also trims a commercial-lease tax and gives tax breaks on purchases ranging from diapers for babies and adults to cattle fencing, firearm-storage devices, and gas stoves.[1] The total tax cuts passed this year amount to $2.7 billion.[2]

The legislative session was marked by several controversial bills, including a six-week abortion ban, bills affecting transgender people, and a bill enabling the death penalty for child rapists, which directly challenges US Supreme Court precedent. The session was also marked by a rare bipartisan moment as Democrats and Republicans in the Florida House and Senate unanimously approved a plan to expand eligibility for the KidCare subsidized health-insurance program.[3]

Governor DeSantis has been widely assumed to be waiting for the session to end to announce his presidential plans. He has been moving toward a likely 2024 presidential campaign for months, but he was always expected to wait until after the legislative session to make a final decision. With skillful persuasion, DeSantis has managed to get Republican lawmakers to follow his conservative agenda, and they have duly noted that DeSantis has accomplished more than any other Florida governor in recent history.[4]

DeSantis’ victories on a long line of culture war issues have led to speculation that his conservative victories could become liabilities with moderate Republican voters or in a general election. However, DeSantis has chosen to push for every last bill lawmakers would pass, suggesting that he is confident in his conservative victories. Republican lawmakers have to do what DeSantis wants because of the clout he amassed in his overwhelming reelection win, which also swept GOP supermajorities into power in each chamber.[5]

Critics of the legislative session have called it “a session from hell” for abortion rights, LGBTQ+ equality, immigrant rights, and collective bargaining in Florida.[6] Democratic Orlando Rep. Anna Eskamani said, “Now that session is over, we must bring our righteous fight for Florida families back to our districts and prepare for what will no doubt be another tough legislative session in 2024.”

Despite criticism, Governor DeSantis has expressed satisfaction with the legislative session, stating, “I don’t think we’ve seen a six-month stretch that has ever been this productive in the history of our state.[7] And I would put us up against any state in the modern history of our country.[8]

0. “State lawmakers approve last bills as 2023 legislative session comes to close” FOX 13 Tampa, 5 May. 2023, https://www.fox13news.com/news/state-lawmakers-approve-last-bills-as-2023-legislative-session-comes-to-close

1. “Hundreds of millions for Northeast Florida projects in Florida’s record $117B budget” WJXT News4JAX , 5 May. 2023, https://www.news4jax.com/news/florida/2023/05/05/hundreds-of-millions-for-northeast-florida-projects-on-the-table-in-floridas-record-117b-budget/

2. “DeSantis grins as FL Legislature’s ‘anti-freedom’ session comes to an end” Florida Phoenix, 5 May. 2023, https://floridaphoenix.com/2023/05/05/desantis-grins-as-fl-legislatures-anti-freedom-session-comes-to-an-end

3. “Five takeaways from Florida’s crucial 2023 legislative session” The Hill, 5 May. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/3990615-desantis-202-floridas-legislative-session

4. “How DeSantis gave Democrats the ‘session from hell'” POLITICO, 5 May. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/05/05/desantis-no-meat-left-on-the-bone-after-florida-legislature-ends-session-00095613

5. “DeSantis’s Actions Leave The People Of Florida “Deeply Frustrated,” Former Senator Says” Patch, 5 May. 2023, https://patch.com/florida/across-fl/desantiss-actions-leave-people-florida-deeply-frustrated-former-senator-says

6. “Florida legislative session ends after flurry of controversial bills pass” WESH 2 Orlando, 6 May. 2023, https://www.wesh.com/article/florida-legislative-session/43805220

7. “Florida Legislature OKs $117 billion budget, goes home” South Florida Sun Sentinel, 5 May. 2023, https://www.sun-sentinel.com/2023/05/05/florida-legislature-oks-budget-adjourns/

8. “Florida lawmakers end session after approving $117B budget filled with DeSantis priorities” CBS Miami, 5 May. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/florida-lawmakers-end-session-after-approving-117b-budget-filled-with-desantis-priorities/

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