Bills DeSantis Signed in Florida Target Trans Rights, Abortion and Education
Gov. Ron DeSantis ushered in a six-week abortion ban and curriculum restrictions, while expanding capital punishment and concealed carry access as he prepared to run for president.
Seeking to elevate his stock with his Republican base for his presumptive presidential candidacy, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida this year has checked off many boxes on a far-right wish list of laws restricting abortion rights, gender-transition care for minors and teaching about sexual orientation.
Expanding capital punishment and who can carry a concealed firearm in his state? Check. Targeting Disney? Check.
And he could soon remove a requirement that he resign as governor to run for president.
The frenzy of bill-signings and a culture-war agenda laid the groundwork for the candidacy of Mr. DeSantis, who is seeking to position himself as a viable alternative to former President Donald J. Trump, the G.O.P.’s front-runner and a onetime ally.
Here are the bills Mr. DeSantis has signed this year:
Six-week abortion ban
In April, Mr. DeSantis signed a law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, making Florida one of the nation’s most restrictive states for reproductive rights. As a result, the state will no longer be a destination for women from across the Deep South seeking abortions.
Emboldened by last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Republicans used their supermajorities in Florida’s Legislature to advance the measure. It replaced a 15-week abortion ban that Mr. DeSantis had signed in April 2022, before the nation’s high court abandoned 50 years of legal precedent on abortion.
But unlike the earlier ban, which Mr. DeSantis promoted with a bill-signing at a church, he ushered in the six-week ban in his office late at night without public notice, except for a group of supporters who joined him.
The law includes exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of a mother. It won’t take effect until Florida’s Supreme Court decides a challenge of the 15-week restriction.
Banning transition-care for minors
In mid-May as he was finalizing his candidacy for president, Mr. DeSantis signed a measure outlawing gender-transition care for minors and restricting it for adults, the latest action by Republicans this year aimed at L.G.B.T.Q. communities in Florida.
It imposed a penalty of up to five years in prison for doctors who violate the ban and requires adults seeking gender-transition care to sign a consent form.
One of the bill’s most contentious aspects is language that says a court could temporarily remove children from their homes if they receive gender-affirming care.
Mr. DeSantis did not stop there. He also put his signature on bills punishing businesses that admit minors to “adult live performances” such as drag shows and making it a misdemeanor trespassing offense for people to use bathrooms in public buildings that do not correspond to their sex at birth.
Education — pronouns, D.E.I. and school choice
Mr. DeSantis gave his seal of approval in May to a bill prohibiting public school employees from calling students pronouns other than those matching their gender at birth.
The measure expanded a one-year-old state law, which critics have referred to as “Don’t Say Gay.” It originally prohibited classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade, until the Florida Board of Education extended it through the 12th grade in April.
Mr. DeSantis left another conservative imprint on Florida’s education system when he signed legislation banning public universities and colleges in the state from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
The teaching of “identity politics,” long a preoccupation of right-wing Republicans, is prohibited at public institutions under the law, which also weakened tenure protections.
In March, Mr. DeSantis gave conservatives another trophy, creating a universal school voucher program. Critics said that the $8,000-per-year benefit per student would undermine public schools and further enrich wealthy families because it does not have an income eligibility cap.
Abortion was not the only issue that Florida took a sharp right turn on this year: Capital punishment was another.
In April, Mr. DeSantis signed a bill that will substantially lower the threshold for imposing the death penalty. It will no longer require a unanimous vote by 12 members of a jury to sentence a person to die. An 8-to-4 majority would be enough under the new law, which is expected to face legal challenges from criminal justice reform groups.
The vast majority of the 27 states that allow the death penalty require unanimous sentencing votes by juries. Alabama is one of the exceptions: a 10-to-2 majority suffices. In cases of deadlocked juries, judges get to decide in Indiana and Missouri.
In Florida, Republicans pushed for the death penalty expansion after a jury last year handed down a life sentence to the man who murdered 17 people in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Nine of the jury’s 12 members voted for the death penalty.
Around the same time that a super PAC supporting Mr. DeSantis labeled Mr. Trump as a “gun grabber,” the governor signed a law in April that allows Floridians to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
As of July 1, gun owners will no longer be required to pass a safety course and a background check, a shift away from calls for tougher gun laws in the state after mass shootings in 2018 in Parkland and in 2016 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
Mr. DeSantis and his allies have sought to cast Mr. Trump as squishy on the Second Amendment, with the super PAC suggesting that the former president “cut and run like a coward” on gun rights issues when he was in the White House.
Disney oversight and immigration
In an escalation of the hostilities between Mr. DeSantis and Disney, which Republicans have turned into an avatar of “woke” culture, the governor signed a series of bills targeting the company and its autonomy over a special taxing district that is home to Disney World.
In February, Mr. DeSantis signed legislation that ended Disney’s self-governing status and empowered him to appoint five members of a state board that controls the tax district. Disney sued over the move and later pulled the plug on a $1 billion development in the state.
Then in May, the governor signed a measure that gave the governing board the authority to void development agreements that the resort had previously agreed to.
Soon after, Mr. DeSantis turned his attention to another cause célèbre for Republicans: immigration.
He mandated that employers with 25 or more employees use E-Verify, a federal government database used to check Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security records to see if a person is authorized to work in the United States. He also banned local governments from issuing ID cards to undocumented immigrants and required hospitals to collect data on health care costs associated with that population.
Election and transparency rules
In a state known for its sunshine laws, Mr. DeSantis signed a law in May to shield from the public records of his travel, including out-of-state political trips.
The measure, which Republicans and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement claimed was needed for security reasons, will create a veil of secrecy over who is paying for the travel of Mr. DeSantis and how he is dividing his time as governor and a presidential candidate.
Even Mr. Trump has latched onto the issue, saying in a statement from his campaign in April that Mr. DeSantis was not being transparent about how much taxpayer money he was spending on travel.
Still, there is another bill awaiting Mr. DeSantis’s signature that is intertwined with his political ambitions. It would immediately eliminate a requirement that he resign as governor to run for president. He might not even need a pen: It will automatically take effect if unsigned.
Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Nehamas, Patricia Mazzei, Trip Gabriel, Nick Corasaniti and Brooks Barnes.