Political Debates in Central Florida: What You Need to Know

As the election year approaches, Florida lawmakers have begun debating a package of bills proposed by Governor Ron DeSantis. The 60-day session, which will start in January, is expected to be dominated by DeSantis' calculations for the upcoming election. Although the governor has denied any interest in running for the White House in 2024, he has recently been involved in a number of political battles, such as fighting against school boards for mask policies and local governments for vaccination mandates. The pandemic has had a major impact on public policy debates in Florida.

The state ranks third in the country in terms of number of infections (3.4 million) and fourth in terms of deaths (50.81). During the summer, ICU units were close to reaching maximum capacity and portable morgues had to be deployed in some hospitals. On Monday, the House of Representatives Public Emergency Committee against the Pandemic & will receive an update on the situation of Florida hospitals. DeSantis has become a leader of the opposition to President Joe Biden's proposals on the coronavirus, and Florida is one of 24 states that have threatened to use all legal options to oppose mandatory vaccinations. Public schools have become a major battleground in Florida's response to the coronavirus.

The start of the school year in August, without a mask mandate, led to mass infections and quarantines across the state. DeSantis has threatened to withhold state money from school boards that challenge his ban on masks and is currently fighting parents in court over it. He has also proposed replacing the state's end-of-year evaluation with a Florida evaluation of student thinking, which would focus on a series of brief tests to measure student progress. The Texas abortion ban, which offers financial incentives for reporting offenders, will serve as a model for a bill proposed by Senator Kelli Stargel, Republican from Lakeland. The law restricts abortion to around the first six weeks, undermining Roe v.

Wade, which established a woman's constitutional right to abort until the fetus is viable (normally 24 weeks). Linda Stewart, Democrat from Orlando, has said that the only question that remains is how restrictive Republicans' bill will be. Planned Parenthood supporters have called for a demonstration on Capitol Hill on Tuesday with the theme “They Prohibit Our Bodies”.The Legislature will also begin redesigning political boundaries in Florida once every decade. Activists and legislators have already drawn their own battle lines over how districts should be divided.

How legislators divide congressional and state legislative districts could determine control of the United States House of Representatives and whether Republicans achieve a supermajority in the Florida House of Representatives. Senator Ray Rodrigues, Republican from Estero and chairman of the Senate Committee on Redistricting, has said that legislators will start with “a clean slate” - an idea that has alarmed advocacy groups such as Fair Districts Now.

Désirée Lejeune
Désirée Lejeune

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