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Florida Approves New Laws to Help DeSantis' Campaign

Once upon a time, the Florida state legislature viewed its function as passing laws to benefit the people of Florida. How quaint. Nowadays, it regards itself as part of the presidential campaign apparatus of the governor and POTUS-wannabe, Ron DeSantis. It sees its job (with some encouragement from the Governor) as slaying the woke dragon so the governor can take credit for it. Let's consider two recent bills the legislators have passed.

First, last fall, DeSantis arranged for a plane to take a group of migrants from Texas to Massachusetts. There was a very brief stopover in Florida to make it sorta, kinda, look like it was maybe, possibly legal. Florida had a law allowing the governor to ship undocumented immigrants who made it to Florida somewhere else, but not immigrants in Texas (hence the need for the stopover). To get the immigrants on the plane, DeSantis' agent lied to them about what was at the other end (jobs and housing). They are now suing him.

This whole stunt was very iffy and icky and probably illegal (before even getting into the question of why DeSantis gave a no-bid contract to a political ally who owns an air charter company at 10x the going rate). Consequently, the legislature has sprung into action and passed a new bill definitely making it legal for the governor to scoop up immigrants from anywhere in the country and ship them wherever the governor wants them shipped. The bill appropriates $10 million for the cause.

How this benefits the people of Florida is an interesting question. How it benefits DeSantis' presidential ambitions is crystal clear. It feeds so much red meat to the base that they are all going to have to get on statins to survive. But it feels so good to know your tax money is being well spent (in essence, being handed to the governor's political ally for some routine flights of people who have been duped into thinking they are going somewhere to get a job).

Second, the legislature has also been active on the woke front. DeSantis has been feuding with the Walt Disney Corporation, the state's largest private employer, ever since Disney executives make it clear they didn't like Florida's new "Don't say gay" law. First, the legislature revoked the tax status of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which effectively turned Disney World and the other Disney Parks into a self-governing municipality. But when the state's lawyers realized that terminating Reedy Creek meant the two counties it was in would then have to assume $1.2 billion debt and pay the interest on it, the legislature decided that wasn't such a great idea after all.

Now the legislature has passed a new bill restoring Reedy Creek's status as an independent entity (of which there are hundreds in Florida, including The Villages). But just to make it clear who's the boss here, the law gives the governor the power to appoint the people on the board that runs Reedy Creek. It also specifies that anyone with ties to Disney during the past 3 years is ineligible to serve on the board. If the board members do anything stupid or illegal (like repudiating the debt), they will certainly be sued, so they are unlikely to behave much differently from the old members. They will just deal with finances, policing, fire services, and the like, just like the old board. But virtually no voters understand what it does or why it is important. Nevertheless, DeSantis can spin this by saying: "Boy did I poke that woke corporation in the eye! I took over control of it. Now they will have to stop all this woke sh** and do what I tell them to do." That's not even vaguely true, but the whole thing is a big PR stunt to impress the base with how much DeSantis hates woke. Whatever that is.

Disney always ran Reedy Creek in a perfectly fine way and didn't cost the taxpayers anything, so there was no need for any change here, other than to burnish DeSantis' image as Mr. Anti-woke. The Florida legislature will remain in session until about May, so it has plenty of time to pass new laws to boost the governor's standing before he formally announces his presidential run. After all, that's what legislatures are for, right? (V)

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