Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 4.7.24

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed measures this week offering plenty of aid to law enforcement, while taking away support from workers dealing with the hellish Florida heat.

We warned last week that Donald Trump has a minefield to navigate in this election in Florida regarding abortion. Boy, did things just get worse.

Florida’s troubles for Trump are thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down Roe v. Wade which he strongly supported, and a restrictive six-week state law that he did not. But Trump has been increasingly pressed to comment on what exactly he wants states to do, and whether he will take any federal action on the issue should he win in November.

Instead what we got this week was a mealy-mouthed bunch of mumbo jumbo that really said nothing and made nobody happy. Even the President of the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America said she was “deeply disappointed” Trump did not back a federal ban, instead vaguely stating this should be a state’s rights issue, without taking any position on what states should approve.

That’s Trump’s modus operandi though, try to be all things to all people and never get pinned down on an issue if he can avoid it. But just one day later, Arizona made clear that Trump was not going to be able to dance around this issue for the next eight months.

The Arizona Supreme Court revived an 1864 law that basically has zero exceptions and completely outlaws the procedure.

Maybe the Legislature, narrowly controlled by Republicans, will wise up and fix this monstrosity before Election Day. But the ruling captured the chaos that striking down Roe v. Wade set into motion. And with Arizona, like Florida, featuring a referendum that would protect abortion rights on its ballot next Fall, voters are likely to remember this ruling whether it’s fixed or not.

Asked about whether the state went too far, however, Trump — who emphasized in his statement the day before the importance of winning elections, a tacit admission that this issue is a loser for Republicans post-Dobbs — clearly said Arizona needs to fix what the state Supreme Court had done.

“Yeah, they did and that’ll be straightened out,” Trump said. “I’m sure that the Governor and everybody else are going to bring it back into reason. And that will be taken care of, I think, very quickly.”

But just seconds after, essentially, bashing the state for allowing this law to be revived, he started waxing poetically about how great it is that states can do whatever they want now regarding abortion.

“It’s the will of the people. This is what I’ve been saying. It’s a perfect system. So for 52 years, people have wanted to end Roe v. Wade to get it back to the states. We did that. It was an incredible thing, an incredible achievement. We did that. And now the states have it and the states are putting out what they want.”

Sorry, and Joe Biden is the one who can’t communicate clearly?

Now, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention: Florida’s businesses. FloridaCommerce officials announced this week that the tax rate on commercial leases will be dropping to 2% earlier than expected.

That drop comes via legislation Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in 2021. That measure (SB 50) set in motion a rate drop as soon as Florida’s unemployment trust fund was boosted back up to $4 billion, which was expected to happen this Summer after it was eaten into during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the fund hit $4 billion earlier than expected, so the rate reduction will kick in on June 1, per the announcement this week.

That’s good news for businesses new and old that call the Sunshine State home. As the economy has largely recovered under the Biden administration post-pandemic (save for still troublesome inflation rates), additional benefits for companies are likely to be welcome news for business owners in the state.

Almost (but not quite) the biggest winner: The Walt Disney Co. We keep spotlighting Disney here in recent weeks, but as long as they keep having weeks like this, they’ll be here.

Two weeks ago, Disney and DeSantis’ allies made an agreement aimed at easing the tension between the parties. Last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger survived an ill-fated proxy investor battle.

This week, it was revealed that Florida’s own pension plan — which owns Disney stock — supported Iger in that proxy battle. That’s even more evidence that relations are warming between The Walt Disney Co. and Florida’s government

In addition, The Walt Disney Co. asked for permission, which was granted, to pause its federal lawsuit against the state of Florida.

And in terms of more traditional good Disney news, the company made a big impact at CinemaCon, with The Rock showing up to announce a Nov. 27 release date for “Moana 2,” a preview of a trailer for “Mufasa: The Lion King,” and adult-oriented preview footage for the upcoming “Deadpool & Wolverine.”

That’s a lot of wins and the hits seem to keep on coming for The Mouse.

The biggest winner: Law enforcement. Members of law enforcement just got a lot more tools in their toolkit, courtesy of several measures DeSantis signed just this week. There was:

— Legislation creating a 25-foot no-go zone around police, firefighters and paramedics when out in action.

— A slate of measures targeting sexual predators, upping penalties for grooming children online, helping the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conduct sting operations, and more.

— Legislation making it easier to pursue felony charges for grand theft.

— A new measure aiming to protect members of law enforcement against exposure to fentanyl, along with other ant-fentanyl laws.

That’s just this week!

Some of the measures — like the items on fentanyl and setting up that so-called “Halo” zone, directly aim to improve the quality of life for officers (though the latter item also raises some concerns about the public’s access to record officers in the field). Others simply up criminal penalties to empower law enforcement to pursue criminals more aggressively.

Add to that an announcement this week that the state had handed out nearly 5,000 bonuses of $5,000 to new law enforcement recruits.

But all of them deliver on DeSantis’ promise that Florida is promoting itself as a law and order state.


Dishonorable mention: ACLU. The American Civil Liberties Union helped push forward a lawsuit this week challenging the Florida Senate map. And without dealing with its merits, the timing of this lawsuit was questionable at best.

The Legislature approved the map two years ago, yet the suit is just coming now. The ACLU and other groups backing this lawsuit allege that lawmakers illegally pushed Black voters into a single Hillsborough-Pinellas County district, primarily affecting two seats which are up for election in 2026.

So perhaps these groups felt no particular rush to file a suit immediately after the map was passed. But there are two major points on that.

First of all, other legal battles involving Florida’s post-Census cartography are still raging, despite having been filed in 2022 shortly after those maps were passed. These legal challenges take time, so if plaintiffs think a suit in 2024 over districts up for grabs in 2026 will certainly provide answers in time, they may have another thing coming. These suits need to be filed early to allow our slow-as-molasses justice system to get to them in time for it to matter.

But the biggest gripe we have with this suit, which named Senate President Kathleen Passidomo as a defendant, was that it came the week after her husband tragically died in a hiking accident.

That, frankly, is classless. These plaintiffs, of course, have no control over this tragedy. But if they have already senselessly delayed this lawsuit for this long, would a few more weeks — in order to give time to a grieving mother and now-widow — have really hurt?

Almost (but not quite) the biggest loser: Jerry Demings. The Orange County Mayor was dealt a blow this week, as the County Commission backed off a plan to once again put forward a sales tax proposal to fund transportation improvements.

The plan has been Demings’ darling for years. But voters in 2022 roundly rejected a tax increase plan, with 58% voting “no.”

Earlier this year, Demings floated trying again in 2024. With last cycle seeing historic performance by Republicans — a demographic typically skeptical of tax increases — perhaps Demings was banking on the pendulum swinging back to Democrats a bit this cycle, and giving renewed hope for the transportation plan.

But when the revived pitch failed to gain support, Demings was forced to back off, per the Orlando Sentinel.

“From the beginning, I wanted to at least have the conversation because so many people in the community wanted us to have the conversation, they wanted to give input,” he said, adding that the referendum did not have “the buy-in we need … to not have failure at the ballot box.”

Demings was right to fold his cards rather than deal with another defeat in November, but it still must sting nonetheless.

The biggest loser: Florida’s working class. DeSantis gave a quote this week hitting on a theme he’s repeated during his tenure as Governor, in comments bashing the federal government’s push to forgive more student loans.

“It is to basically say, you know, ‘If you’re a truck driver, you didn’t go to college, you don’t have student debt. Sorry, you’re going to have to pony up to pay the student loans of somebody, you know, who maybe got a degree in sociology or something and is not gainfully employed and can’t afford the loans.’ That is not fair,” DeSantis bemoaned.

That is, DeSantis makes an effort to stand up for the little guy, the working class, and push back against the so-called ivory tower elites keeping the blue-collar man down.

Yet we can’t help but notice in the same week DeSantis went on the offensive against this purported disrespect to members of the working class in Florida and beyond, he signed legislation blocking local governments from forcing businesses to give water breaks or enforce any measure to keep working cool in the agonizingly hot and humid Florida Summer (and Spring … and early Fall, for that matter).

How can you purport to stand up for the little guy when you are going out of your way to block local officials from protecting the little guy?

This is not some far-fetched lefty idea. Even Republican Rep. Mike Beltran, one of the most vocal small-government, liberty-oriented members of the Legislature, was one of a handful of Republicans to vote against this measure last Session.

“Due to Florida’s unusually hot climate, the variation thereof throughout the state, and the diverse economy, I believe that local regulation may be appropriate,” Beltran stated. “Weather, working conditions, and the nature of work performed vary considerably throughout the state. Regulations promulgated in Washington or Tallahassee are less likely to be appropriate than in almost any other area of regulation.”

We couldn’t have said it better. Heck, we even allow water breaks when our lawmakers give the State of the Union rebuttal. We can’t let local governments in the hotter parts of the state require it for workers?

But with DeSantis’ signature hitting the page, it’s now law.

By the way, this isn’t a guy who is unaware of the dangers of Florida heat. Case in point: Just last week, he signed legislation establishing April as “Hot Car Death Prevention Month,” in order “to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving children unattended in motor vehicles and how to prevent hot car deaths from occurring.”

Florida heat is dangerous. You don’t say!

This comes just weeks after DeSantis also signed a measure allowing minors to work longer and later hours. You know who isn’t reliant on their kids doing that kind of work? Those ivory tower families DeSantis talks big game about.

But that’s the thing. Talk is easy. But DeSantis’ pen is telling a different story, one that isn’t so protective of those men and women doing some of the state’s toughest work. Let’s just hope last year was an anomaly.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


  • C’mon

    April 14, 2024 at 9:35 am

    The merits of the redistricting lawsuit have nothing to do with its filing date. The fact that the current Senate president is on the suit pro forma literally mean nothing and it’s an odd thing to get exercised over since she herself will have nothing to do with responding to it. It’s not like divorce papers being served on a hospitalized cancer patient as Newt Gingrich did with his then-wife. Makes FP sound like a RPOF shill.

    • Margaret Chrisawn

      April 14, 2024 at 2:40 pm

      Exactly. To make the utterly baseless–and clearly manufactured–claim that the ACLU somehow engineered its suit to coincide with Passimodo’s husband’s death is shilling for the RPOF at its finest.

      I am naturally cheering on the ACLU at the same time sending a single tot and pea to Passimodo [Quasimodo is more appropriate, I think.]

  • Florida Citizens

    April 14, 2024 at 10:21 am

    The biggest loser will always ALWAYS be Rhonda, MAGAts, and Trump! Rhonda talks out both sides of her mouth in an endless conflicting rhetoric, because there’s no intelligence to lead without fear mongering. Honestly the biggest loser this week is Florida citizens because Rhonda continues to stack the deck by appointing people to vacant positions. These are people that were forced to resign. Just this week Rhonda appointed a large number (of what would normally be elected positions) of her MAGAts to local government positions. It’s madness how crooked this governor is and how the citizens are being absolutely stripped of their voice and their vote. Don’t believe me? Look at the facts!

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