Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has become the most powerful governor in at least a generation, but his iron grip on the Republican-controlled Legislature may be slipping amid growing frustration among GOP legislators. With only a few weeks left in the current session, Republican legislators are hindering a few of his major remaining legislative goals. And what started out as whispers in private about unhappiness over the governor are starting to become louder, even though Republican lawmakers remain unwilling to speak out publicly against DeSantis because of his power and clout.
Numerous Republicans have expressed their endorsement of DeSantis’ agenda, but have observed their own essential bills being obstructed or delayed in order to aid him. They have been irritated by directives issued by lawmakers collaborating with the governor’s administration. It has been suggested that the overwhelming majority of the GOP has enabled the legislative leaders to dismiss grievances from ordinary members with greater ease. One House Republican recently even told a former legislator he was ready to resign out of frustration over how the session was going.
During his four years in office, DeSantis has galvanized the state’s shift to the right and won re-election by 19 percentage points – a victory that expanded the ranks of his allies in the legislature, allowing him to pass bills with little to no meaningful opposition. However, he has also amassed power by crossing the traditional boundaries of gubernatorial control and intimidating opponents into silence. During his first term, DeSantis had established himself as a dominant governor in the history of the state. He utilized his influence to enforce the passage of his congressional redistricting maps and altered the distribution of Republican power in the state by elevating the number of registered Republican voters and supporting school board nominees.
Prior to the session, the governor revealed a comprehensive plan aimed at securing numerous legislative triumphs that he could proudly showcase in his anticipated presidential campaign. Despite everything, DeSantis has achieved significant victories during this session. Lawmakers have already passed multiple bills that the governor backed, including a ban on abortions after six weeks, a measure letting people carry concealed weapons without a permit, and legislation that will no longer require a unanimous jury recommendation in death penalty cases. And as the Sunshine State’s legislative session passes the halfway point, lawmakers are moving quickly to pass a slate of other bills backed by DeSantis, including broadening the death penalty by eliminating the requirement for a unanimous verdict.
It should be noted that DeSantis supported a bill in 2022 that mirrored the “don’t say gay” law for lower grades. Critics argue that this legislation is discriminatory towards LGBTQ students and families. Over the past year, the law has been utilized to support actions such as prohibiting books that center on the LGBTQ community and eliminating the labeling of classrooms as “safe space” DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education Law in March 2022, which bars the teaching of sexual orientation until the third grade, prior to the recent legislative onslaught. Critics have named it the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and it sparked a battle between DeSantis and one of Florida’s biggest employers, Walt Disney Co. The law has also sparked frequent debates about removing books from classrooms and school libraries.
While many Republicans support DeSantis’ priorities, some have grown frustrated with how their own priority bills have been slowed down or waylaid to help him. DeSantis’ recent announcement that he wants legislators to take aim again at Disney has also irritated conservative Republicans loath to target private businesses. One GOP legislator privately said: “We’re not the party of cancel culture. We can’t keep doing this tit for tat.”
DeSantis has orchestrated one of the most abrupt conservative takeovers of state government in modern US history, making a one-time swing state center stage in the country’s culture wars. But some in the GOP are growing fearful he’s going too far in pushing Florida and the Republican party further to the right than ever. While DeSantis remains a popular conservative figure, his iron grip on the Republican-controlled Legislature may be slipping as growing frustration among GOP legislators becomes louder.
0. “How DeSantis became Florida’s most powerful governor in a generation” The Washington Post, 16 Apr. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/04/16/florida-ron-desantis-governor-legislature-power
1. “Playbook: As DeSantis falters, Christie sees an opening” POLITICO, 20 Apr. 2023, https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2023/04/20/as-desantis-falters-christie-sees-an-opening-00093003
2. “‘Deeply frustrated’: Florida legislators worn out by DeSantis” Yahoo News, 20 Apr. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/frustrated-tired-desantis-demands-wear-083000318.html
3. “DeSantis’s proposed changes in Florida: From education to abortion” The Washington Post, 18 Apr. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/04/16/ron-desantis-florida-proposals/
4. “DeSantis Made Florida Richer, Now He’s Making It Redder” Yahoo Finance, 18 Apr. 2023, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/desantis-made-florida-richer-now-140006918.html