TALLAHASSEE – A legislative session colored by last November’s presidential election could power Florida’s Ron DeSantis toward future contests — with lawmakers filling a wish list the governor pushed that is seen as custom-made for the Republican voting base.
Already a Fox News favorite and a potential contender for his party’s White House nomination, DeSantis’ agenda was topped by a crackdown on protesters involved in demonstrations that turn violent, an election law overhaul limiting mail ballots and dropboxes, and new state regulations on social media platforms under fire for banning former President Donald Trump, the governor’s political mentor.
“What I see with Gov. DeSantis is him very much leaning into this pattern nationwide, with conservative legislatures putting forth these kinds of reforms, these sorts of bills … to appear tough — to continue throwing red meat to their base,” said Rep. Fentrice Driskell, a Tampa Democrat.
But DeSantis’ Republican allies dispute the motives Democrats attribute to him.
Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Naples, who sponsored the governor’s Big Tech push, pointed to an April survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy which showed 60% of Floridians, including more Democrats than Republican, support making social media sites publish standards for banning users, a key part of the bill DeSantis demanded.
“What we’re doing resonates with people on both sides of the aisle,” Rodrigues said. “For some reason in this chamber, at this time, it’s perceived as partisan. But if you get outside the bubble of Tallahassee, this is a bipartisan issue.”
“While it’s perceived as red meat by some, I see it as a real bipartisan bill,” he added.
DeSantis used some of $10 billion state got on water issues
Results of the last fight for the White House helped inspire the governor’s policy decisions. But President Joe Biden’s victory also helped DeSantis meet some spending priorities.
The $10.2 billion steered to Florida government under Biden’s American Rescue Plan was approved by the Democratic-led Congress over opposition from every Republican member.
The windfall coming to Florida allowed the governor to dramatically enhance state spending on water quality, climate change and environmental cleanup — always issues that poll well in Florida.
It also helped clear the way for $1,000 pay raises for first responders, correctional officers and teachers, voting blocs that could help DeSantis on the next stop on his political path — a reelection campaign next year.
DeSantis is scheduled to speak to a…