(As originally published with bells and whistles, Thu, April 20th 2023, 7:32 PM EDT)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (TND) — Florida governor and expected GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has been busy signing bills approved by his Republican supermajority in the legislature.
He did the same last year, but two controversial items he signed will not be the law of the land anymore.
It’s not that DeSantis is complaining.
He got what he wanted, although it wasn’t what he said he wanted before his reelection in November.
Last Thursday, between flying in from Ohio and out to New Hampshire, DeSantis held a closed-door private ceremony without fanfare to sign a bill to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
That’s contrary to his usual bombastic style but his mind is also on his book tour, which some consider a shadow presidential campaign.
The six-week ban is considered a major conservative policy victory, even though it’ll only go into effect if the state Supreme Court upholds the 15-week ban DeSantis signed last year, even before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The 15-week law — named “Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality” — is the subject of an ongoing legal challenge, but DeSantis might not be sweating.
He appointed four of the six current justices. (The seventh, appointed before DeSantis, resigned last month.)
“We are here today to protect life,” DeSantis said April 14 of last year as he signed the bill at an evangelical church in Kissimmee.
That in itself was a major victory. Before, Florida allowed abortions through the second trimester, making it one of the most lenient states in the Southeast.
The 15-week ban also has no exemptions for rape or incest. It does allow exemptions if the pregnancy is a serious risk to the mother or if a fatal fetal abnormality is detected — with a major condition:
To prevent a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, which must be certified in writing by two physicians, or by one physician in the case of an emergency if a second physician is not available.
Opponents sued and DeSantis defended the law, which was much more stringent, but then signed this year’s “Heartbeat Protection Act” hours after it passed and in the middle of a busy travel schedule.
He said it “expands pro-life protections and provides additional resources for young mothers and families,” and put out a news release crediting himself for “historic measures to defend the dignity of human life and transform Florida into a pro-family state.
Another of the “family first policies,” as the news release called them, was not undone by this year’s legislature.
Still, the “Don’t Say Gay” law — dressed up with the title Parental Rights in Education — won’t only ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity up to third grade, as advertised.
DeSantis signed that controversial measure at a classical private school north of Tampa on March 28 of last year, after weeks of back-and-forth debate and publicity around the country.
The arguments are well-known.
DeSantis stood behind a podium with a sign saying “Protect children, Support parents.”
He spoke about “leftist politicians” and claimed opponents of the law were trying to “camouflage their true intentions.”
Then, he surrounded himself with children and signed it — despite his own true intentions.
A month ago, the unsatisfied governor asked the state Board of Education and Education Department — both of which are led by people he appointed — to forbid classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, up to and including high school seniors turning 18 who are well past becoming aware of their sexuality.
That’s what’s going to happen in about a month, after a procedural notice period, according to an education department spokesperson.
Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., explained it clarifies confusion around the law and reinforces that teachers should not deviate from existing curriculums.
We’re not removing anything here,” he said on Wednesday. “All we are doing is we are setting the expectations so our teachers are clear: that they are to teach to the standards.”
What’s clear is that happened on the same day the state House passed bills on gender-transition treatments, bathroom use, and keeping children out of drag shows.
Hardline policies may help a staunch conservative in a primary election, but they could ultimately alienate the broader set of swing voters, especially women, needed to win the presidency.
If that happens for DeSantis, he’ll be raising kids with his wife while living in the White House, 700 miles from the Florida state line.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.