Bills DeSantis Signed in Florida Target Trans Rights, Abortion and Education

Bills DeSantis Signed in Florida Target Trans Rights, Abortion and Education

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this year sought to bolster his Republican base for his prospective presidential nomination, ticking many boxes on a far-right wish list of laws restricting abortion rights, underage sex transition care and education about sexual orientation.

Expanding the death penalty and who can carry a concealed firearm in their state? Check over. Target Disney? Check over.

And he could soon lift the requirement that he step down as governor in order to run for president.

The frenzy of signing legislation and a culture war agenda laid the groundwork for Mr. DeSantis’ candidacy, who wants to position himself as a viable alternative to former President Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party’s lead candidate and one-time ally.

Here are the bills Mr. DeSantis signed this year:

In April, Mr. DeSantis signed legislation banning abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, making Florida one of the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to reproductive rights. As a result, the state will no longer be a destination for women from across the South seeking abortions.

Emboldened by last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Republicans used their supermajorities in Florida’s legislature to push the measure forward. It replaced a 15-week abortion ban Mr. DeSantis signed into law in April 2022, before the country’s Supreme Court gave up 50 years of precedent on abortion.

But unlike the earlier ban, which Mr. DeSantis endorsed by signing a bill in a church, he introduced the six-week ban late at night in his office with no public announcement save for a group of supporters who joined him .

The law provides exceptions for rape, incest, and saving a mother’s life. It will not go into effect until the Florida Supreme Court rules on a challenge to the 15-week restriction.

In mid-May, as he was finalizing his candidacy for president, Mr. DeSantis signed a measure outlawing sex transition care for minors and restricting it for adults, the latest Republican action this year targeting LGBTQ communities in Florida .

It imposed a penalty of up to five years in prison for doctors violating the ban and requires adults who seek sex reassignment treatment to sign an informed consent form.

The doctrine of “identity politics,” which has long been a concern of right-wing Republicans, is banned by law in public institutions, which also weakens term protections.

In March, Mr. DeSantis presented another trophy to the Conservatives and created a universal school voucher program. Critics said the $8,000 per year per student benefit would undermine public schools and further enrich wealthy families because there is no income cap.

Abortion wasn’t the only issue on which Florida made a sharp right turn this year: the death penalty was another.

In April, Mr. DeSantis signed a bill that will significantly lower the threshold for imposing the death penalty. A unanimous vote by 12 jurors is no longer required to sentence a person to death. An 8-to-4 majority would suffice 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 jury verdicts. Alabama is one of the exceptions: a majority of 10 to 2 is sufficient. When the jury dies, judges in Indiana and Missouri decide.

In Florida, Republicans have been pushing for an extension of the death penalty after a jury last year handed a life sentence to the man who murdered 17 people in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Nine of the twelve members of the jury voted in favor of the death penalty.

Around the same time a super PAC supporting Mr. DeSantis was calling Mr. Trump a “gun snatcher,” the governor signed into law in April allowing Florida residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

Effective July 1, gun owners will no longer be required to complete a safety course and background check, a departure from calls for stricter gun laws in the state following mass shootings in 2018 in Parkland and in 2016 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Mr. DeSantis and his allies have attempted to portray Mr. Trump as squeamish about the Second Amendment, with the Super PAC implying that the former president “performed like a coward” on gun rights issues when he was in the White House.

In an escalation of hostilities between Mr. DeSantis and Disney, which Republicans have made an epitome of “woke” culture, the governor signed a series of bills targeting the company and its autonomy over a special tax district, Disney World is based .

The measure, which Republicans and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have said is necessary for security reasons, will create a veil of secrecy over who is paying for Mr. DeSantis’ trip and how he divides his time as governor and presidential candidate.

Even Mr. Trump has weighed in on the issue, saying in a statement from his April campaign that Mr. DeSantis is not transparent about how much taxpayer money he spends on travel.

Still, there is another bill awaiting Mr. DeSantis’ signature that is linked to his political ambitions. That would remove the obligation for him to step down as governor to run for president immediately. He may not even need a pen: it takes effect automatically if unsigned.

Reporting was provided by Nicholas Nehamas, Patricia Mazzei, Trip Gabriel, Nick Corasaniti and Brooks Barnes.