Joe Henderson: Don’t say gay? It must be Dennis Baxley at work
Dennis Baxley is fighting online shopping fraud.

The Florida that Sen. Dennis Baxley longs for no longer exists.

Sen. Dennis Baxley, another freedom-loving Republican lawmaker in the Legislature, is never shy about sponsoring looney laws.

He pushed schools to offer “different worldviews” about evolution and climate change in the past. That didn’t pass.

Last year, he messed with Florida’s ultra-successful Bright Futures program. He wanted to require recipients to pursue college majors “that lead directly to employment.” Parents lost their minds, and Baxley backed down.

Baxley was a leader last year in making unneeded and dangerous changes to Florida’s voting laws.

He was the lone committee vote against removing the statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the U.S. Capitol. A statue of educator and civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune will soon stand in its place.

Now, he’s the “brains” behind the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It’s pandering of the highest order, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from this Ocala Neanderthal.

Baxley’s bill would ban school districts from “encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate.”

Whatever that means. Baxley probably doesn’t know either. But the bill is winding its way through the Legislature.

As bad as that is, though, there is a more insidious part of the bill.

It also would allow parents to sue a school district if they believe a teacher violated the rule. Baxley, of course, said it’s about promoting parental rights and stopping schools from advancing “social agendas.”

Oh, like the social agendas Baxley proposes?

This just in: People with diverse looks, beliefs, and values long ago replaced the Ozzie and Harriet Florida where Baxley resides.

Lawyers are rubbing their hands together in glee over the thought of how they’ll spend the extra loot they’ll make if this nutty bill passes. A misinterpreted word from an instructor could send a parent stampeding to Nukem, Fleecem, and Bleedem so they can have their day in court.

But this is just another example of how Republicans in Tallahassee create a boogeyman and then slay it. Gov. Ron DeSantis is an expert in that field (see theory, critical race).

They decry the cancel culture, then proceed to cancel anything they don’t like or, more importantly, believe their base doesn’t like.

It’s too bad too, because there are plenty of smart, dedicated Republicans in Tallahassee. No one would ever call me conservative, but I respect smart and civil people even if they have ideas with which I don’t agree.

Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls certainly qualify. We’ll miss Sen. Jeff Brandes when he terms out after this Session. Rep. Chris Latvala is on that list. There are plenty of others.

If the leaders won’t come out aggressively against Baxley’s blunder, they could at least bottle it up in the process until it dies an unlamented death.

We send these people to Tallahassee in hopes they’ll make life better for all Floridians. What we too often receive, however, is performance art, designed to send Florida back to 1959 in a time machine. There are consequences to that.

The Florida Education Association reported that when the current school year began last August, there were 4,961 teaching vacancies and 3,753 vacancies in the support staff throughout the state. Sarasota recently asked parents to stand in as substitute teachers because not enough people want to do that job.

Districts all over the state struggle to find bus drivers.

Why isn’t Dennis Baxley working to improve that situation?

But no, of course not. Ignore a real problem and fixate on a fake one.

It’s how Dennis the Menace rolls.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Jean Wingo

    February 9, 2022 at 7:45 pm

    Your article indicates you have no idea of what is happening in our schools. Whether Baxley’s bill is the one, something needs to be done when my FIVE yr old grandson has to argue with a teacher about marriage not being a man and woman (can you say age appropriate?), or asks the class who they would vote for and when he says Trump, she says “No! He is a bad man!” Or the guitar teacher is called “They and Them since he identifies with both sexes.

  • Tom

    February 9, 2022 at 9:15 pm

    Powerful testament Jean, very compelling.
    Blessings to you and your grandson.
    Thank God I don’t have children in public schools. What the national education Assoc has done to children, and school age kids is awful.
    Governor DeSantis has stood up to the NEA. They sued him and they lost on school openings. Good luck.

  • Ron Ogden

    February 9, 2022 at 9:49 pm

    “This just in: People with diverse looks, beliefs, and values long ago replaced the Ozzie and Harriet Florida where Baxley resides.”

    Hey Flower Power Joe, this even JUSTER in: all those people you cherished and applauded as they condemned others who have traditional looks, beliefs and values are beginning to realize that maybe those Ozzie and Harriet looks, beliefs and values had some good points about them and should be thought about and considered instead of harshly, mockingly and spitefully condemned and despised in the penny press, all for the sake of false dreams of free sex, free drugs and free and brutal judgment. Your day is past Joe–it’s immersed in the dust of 1972, somewhere way down there at the bottom of some seedy old bag of ancient Marxist historicism. Hope you’re comfortable joining the Chicago spitballers. What ever did happen to Abbie, and Jerry and Tom? How about Bobby Seale? Haven’t seen him recently. Maybe he’s just living in your attic.

  • Rob

    February 9, 2022 at 11:25 pm

    The legislature maintains the status quo as far as guns go, but busies itself with this nonsense.

    • MAC

      February 10, 2022 at 10:46 am

      Interesting, I have had a gun laying on my kitchen table for years and it has not killed or hurt anyone. It is not the gun that is in the wrong, it is the person holding the gun. That person needs to be held accountable not my gun! Maybe we need to have less gun control and more people control…hum

      • Jeff

        February 10, 2022 at 11:57 am

        People leaving their guns on the kitchen table for years is the kind of idiocy progressives are trying to curtail.

      • Rob

        February 10, 2022 at 12:03 pm

        That tired old trope is responsible for countless- hundreds of thousands- of deaths. The vast majority of them innocents. It is difficult to conjure up a more useless, more destructive piece of pap for 21st-century living.

  • Jarod

    February 22, 2022 at 7:47 am

    You are all looney tunes here in Florida. Governor doesn’t even have a million dollars. Jean Wingo is a real name of someone. The idiots from the cities let the crazier people from the part of the state that do not contribute to the economy make laws that will hurt the economy. While the state should be doing tort reform, it’s making itself, the state, easier to sue. Party of fiscal responsibility my ass. And parents of gay kids: you already know the kids gay and pray as you might, it’s not changing. But oh sure let’s make a dumb ass law about it and make our taxes go up. Amazing how idiotic the people who are Florida lifers are. Poor, uneducated, white trash.

Comments are closed.


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