Technically, Florida has a two-party political system, although Democrats apparently missed the memo. The 2019 Legislative Session reinforced that Republicans are in charge.
They likely will stay in charge, too.
They can do anything they want. There is no check on their power to change Florida fundamentally.
Republicans don’t even worry about public perception and make no apologies. They gutted the amendment voters approved overwhelmingly to restore the voting rights for felons who had served their time. Then they made it harder for citizens to get future amendments on the ballot.
Republicans ignored statewide opposition from educators and passed a program to allow some teachers to carry guns at schools. At least lawmakers made it voluntary. Several large districts – including Hillsborough and Pasco counties – have already opted out.
Would it surprise anyone, though, if eventually there is a move to force all districts to accept armed teachers? The Republican appetite for the expansion of guns in Florida seems to be ravenous. With no effective opposition party to stand in the way, what would stop them?
They are equally as hungry to change public education fundamentally. Mission accomplished. They took millions from public schools to expand vouchers and charters.
They even said charters can get a cut when communities vote approve taxes for public schools. That was especially cynical.
A Tampa Bay Times editorial called it a “death sentence for public education.” It further noted, “Elections have consequences, and this is a devastating one.”
Any challenge by Democrats to the Republican initiatives likely will go nowhere. Gov. Ron DeSantis pulled off a preemptive strike by appointing three conservative judges to the state Supreme Court.
Like the Times said though, elections have consequences.
Voters elected DeSantis for his conservative chops. In his first Legislative Session, he quickly mastered the game of how to give his supporters what they want.
Republicans got most of their legislative priorities with ease. Democrats looked sputtering and irrelevant.
In the process, DeSantis solidified his hold on Tallahassee. A Florida Atlantic University poll put his approval rating at 54 percent. Only 19 percent expressed disapproval.
What Republicans just accomplished with only token opposition was impressive. What should scare Democrats is what might happen next year. And the year after that. And so on.
Expect an even more aggressive agenda going forward. Unless Democrats can up their game they will be unable to do much more than squawk.
The crumbling of the Democrats’ influence on state politics is incredible, given that they have about 200,000 more registered voters than Republicans. That number never seems to translate into wins at the ballot box though. Now they are faced with a popular, skilled and focused Governor.
DeSantis used the 2019 Legislative Session to show how they do it in the big leagues.
That’s the way it is going to be, too, until Democrats find a way to be relevant again.
Don’t hold your breath.