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Ron DeSantis' Key Bills So Far in 2023

​Ron DeSantis
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Ron DeSantis' Key Bills So Far in 2023

Florida Republicans have enacted several laws considered big policy wins for the GOP.

(CNN) — Throughout this year's session, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature has pushed through several pieces of legislation that are considered big policy wins for GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis.

As the session comes to a close Friday — and as the countdown for DeSantis to jump into the 2024 presidential race begins — here's a breakdown of the key bills DeSantis has already signed and a look ahead at the measures, ushered through by the legislature's Republican supermajority, that await his signature.

Six-week abortion ban

A measure dubbed the Heartbeat Protection Act, signed by DeSantis in a closed-door ceremony last month, prohibits physicians from knowingly performing abortions after six weeks in most cases.

Exceptions for rape, incest and human trafficking exist for up to 15 weeks into a pregnancy, but there is a caveat: Women "must provide a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or other court order or documentation providing evidence." Additionally, after six weeks, two physicians can certify in writing that the abortion is necessary to save the woman's life or to "avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function."

At a March news conference, DeSantis called the proposed exceptions "sensible."

Though enacted, the six-week ban won't take effect until 30 days after the state Supreme Court either overturns its previous precedent on abortion or tosses out cases from Planned Parenthood and abortion rights activists challenging the existing 15-week abortion ban.

Concealed carry without a permit

In April, DeSantis unceremoniously signed legislation authorizing concealed carry without a permit in Florida.

Under the law, which will take effect July 1, gun owners are allowed to carry a gun in public without a government-issued permit.

"You don't need a permission slip from the government to be able to exercise your constitutional rights," DeSantis said at a March event to promote his new book at a gun store in Georgia.

The law also ends an existing state requirement to undergo training before carrying a concealed weapon outside the home.

The government-issued permit remains available for those who wish to obtain one. And it would remain illegal to carry a firearm in certain gun-free zones, including schools, courthouses and college campuses.

Some gun rights advocates have said that the law doesn't go far enough, while Florida Democrats have criticized DeSantis for signing the public safety bill, arguing that it achieves the opposite.

Eliminating unanimous jury decisions for death penalty

DeSantis in April signed a bill that eliminated unanimous jury decisions for the death penalty, making Florida the state with the lowest threshold for administering capital punishment.

Under the new law, "if at least eight jurors determine that the defendant should be sentenced to death, the jury's recommendation to the court must be a sentence of death."

If fewer than eight jurors recommend the death penalty, the law requires the court to impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole."

In January, DeSantis vowed to rid Florida of unanimous 12-member jury decisions for the death penalty, citing the verdict in the Parkland school shooting as a miscarriage of justice. The shooter was sentenced to life in prison without parole rather than death, due to three jurors recommending against the death penalty.

"Today's change in Florida law will hopefully save other families from the injustices we have suffered," said Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed in the Parkland shooting.

Capital sexual battery

On Monday, DeSantis signed a bill that makes child rapists eligible for the death penalty with the minimum sentence of life in prison without parole.

According to the measure, "a person 18 years of age or older who commits sexual battery upon, or in an attempt to commit sexual battery injures the sexual organs of, a person less than 12 years of age commits a capital felony."

"We're putting pedophiles to death, hopefully," DeSantis said, before sitting down to sign the bill in Titusville, Florida.

The law runs afoul of a 2008 US Supreme Court decision prohibiting states from applying the death penalty for child rape if the victim did not die.

"We think that in the worst of the worst cases, the only appropriate punishment is the ultimate punishment, and so this bill sets up a procedure to be able to challenge that precedent," DeSantis said Monday.

Blocking Florida investments based on ESG factors

DeSantis signed a bill Tuesday that expands upon measures to block Florida investments based on environmental, social and governance, or ESG, factors while threatening banks and other financial institutions with sanctions if they deny business to people due to moral or political objections.

"ESG is officially DOA in the state of Florida," DeSantis said as he signed the bill in Jacksonville.

The new law codifies a measure approved last year by the State Board of Administration, which oversees pensions, that prohibits state retirement fund managers from making investment decisions based on reasons other than maximizing the highest rate of return.

"It takes what we did last year with Florida's Pension Fund, and it codifies into law the idea that the fiduciary obligation is to produce the best returns possible for the beneficiaries, not to be diverted in that task by pursuing these ideological agendas," DeSantis said.

Under the law, financial institutions, including banks, credit unions and other lenders, face fines if they refuse to lend to people for reasons other than "an analysis of risk factors unique to each current or prospective customer." Under the law, banks that operate in Florida could face punishment if they refuse to lend to gun manufacturers, fossil fuel companies or certain far-right groups.

All but the ink

More bills await DeSantis' signature.

Disney will be subject to new measures heading to the governor's desk, as tensions have escalated in recent weeks with dueling lawsuits between the entertainment giant and DeSantis' handpicked oversight board, which oversees Disney's special taxing district.

Under one measure, the state would take over safety inspections in "any governmentally or privately owned fixed-guideway transportation systems operating in this state which are located within an independent special district created by local act which have boundaries within two contiguous counties."

This would apply to just one transportation system in the state: Disney World's monorail, which crosses over Orange and Osceola counties.

Lawmakers also gave final approval on Thursday to a bill that would allow an appointed board to review and void previous land agreements in the state — a win for the governor in his feud with Disney. Ahead of a state takeover of Disney's special taxing district, the company reached an agreement with an outgoing board to shift much of the power in the district to Disney. DeSantis and his appointees on the new board have sought to nullify those agreements. This is another tool to potentially void the agreements.

Another measure would expand Florida's ban on instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity from prekindergarten through grade 8, rather than kindergarten through grade 3. The state's education board voted last month to ban teaching students about sexual orientation and gender identity through high school.

Last year's Parental Rights in Education Act, which opponents have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" law, contained the original ban and is at the crux of the ongoing battle between DeSantis and Disney. Additionally, the new measure would prevent teachers and staff at public schools from using their preferred pronouns when talking to students.

Also awaiting DeSantis' signature is a sweeping 96-page elections package, which includes a provision that would allow the governor to run for president without resigning, as he prepares for an expected White House bid.

The elections bill would also have larger implications by placing new restrictions on Florida voters and third-party registration groups.

Other legislation awaiting DeSantis' signature would change the lives of transgender people in Florida.

The bills would prohibit transgender children from receiving gender-affirming treatments and ban transgender people from using a bathroom in a government building that does not match their biological sex.

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