• Taxes and spending: Florida has no income tax, but it does have a 6% sales tax, and there are new exemptions for such “family-focused” items as “diapers, wipes, children’s clothing, cribs, and strollers.” The state’s latest $117 billion budget is up about 6%, which is far from tight-fisted, and Mr. DeSantis’s office is boasting about $1 billion for Everglades restoration and water protection. But the state fisc is sound because revenue is flush from rapid economic growth.
• Education: School choice will become universal, as the Legislature eliminated income and enrollment caps. Each family is eligible for about $8,700, with priority going to households at or below 185% of the poverty line. Meantime, the state is spending more on pay for public-school teachers, this time a bump of $252 million.
The Legislature also passed a constitutional amendment, which voters could approve in 2024, to change school boards into partisan bodies, so elections would have ballot lines for Republicans and Democrats.
• Crime: The death penalty no longer requires unanimity. Eight jurors out of 12 can recommend it, provided that every juror agrees the crime involved at least one aggravating factor. The Legislature has directed the state Supreme Court to create a uniform statewide bond schedule for bail releases. If new information comes to light after an accused criminal is let go, any party may move to reconsider pretrial detention.
• Public unions: Dues may no longer be automatically deducted from the paychecks of many government workers, but must be paid directly by each member. This gives workers discretion and puts the onus on unions to persuade members. If the share of dues payers falls below 60%, the union could face a new election, and stronger union audits and financial disclosures are required.
• Immigration: The Legislature’s response to President Biden’s border failure was to impose new burdens on Florida employers. Businesses with more than 25 workers must now use E-Verify to check employment eligibility, or else they can be fined $1,000 a day. E-Verify is far from reliable, and the law could have a negative impact on the state’s economy, especially in construction, agriculture, hotels and restaurants. Florida will also refuse to recognize out-of-state driver’s licenses issued to illegal immigrants.
• Abortion: The Heartbeat Protection Act bans abortions at six weeks, with exceptions up to 15 weeks if there is a police report or other documentation to substantiate rape, incest or human trafficking. This is a political gamble that is sure to be attacked by Democrats if Mr. DeSantis gets the GOP nomination.
• Tort reform: If a plaintiff is found to be more than 50% responsible for his own injuries, he no longer is able to recover damages. Other invitations to legal abuse, such as “one-way attorney fees,” are eliminated. Florida is still too friendly to tort suits, but this is an improvement.
• ESG: State and local investment decisions must focus on maximizing returns, not factors related to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria.
• Disney: The former Reedy Creek Improvement District around Disney World, which had been largely self-governing, is now the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, with board members appointed by Mr. DeSantis. The Governor says this is nothing more than denying a company special government privileges. He has a point, but his brawl with Disney has become distractingly personal.
• Guns: Floridians will no longer need a permit to carry concealed weapons.
Action Line: Why isn’t your governor making these reforms? Ask them. If they don’t give you a good answer, maybe it’s time to look for a better America. Start your search with Your Survival Guy’s 2023 Super States. Then click here to subscribe to my free monthly Survive & Thrive letter.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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