About 150 bills became law in Florida on July 1, including several that Governor Ron DeSantis is using to motivate his conservative base as he seeks re-election and a possible run for president in 2024.
But those most pleasing to his political base are also facing legal challenges: a ban on abortion after 15 weeks, legislation limiting how race can be discussed in classrooms and private businesses. and a law opponents call “Don’t Say Gay” that bars teachers from talking about gender identity and sexual orientation with kindergarteners.
A judge announced on Thursday that he would temporarily block the implementation of abortion laws. But the ruling won’t go into effect until he signs a written order, which the judge said is likely to happen next week. The law takes effect Friday, and the state has said it will appeal the decision.
Then there are far less controversial new laws, including strawberry shortcake becoming the state’s official dessert, vet bill assistance for people who adopt retired police K-9s, and recognition in state law that the US Space Force is part of the nation’s military.
DeSantis signed the abortion bill to the U.S. Supreme Court last week, which ruled there was no federal constitutional right to process, leaving decisions on whether to terminate pregnancy in the States.
The challengers say Florida’s legislation violates the state constitution’s right to privacy. Judge John C. Cooper agreed Thursday.
A law that DeSantis sought to ensure critical race theory was not taught in schools or as part of corporate training programs is also being challenged.
The law prohibits instructions that members of one race are inherently racist and that they should feel guilty for past actions of others of the same race or that a person’s status as privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his race. It also prohibits the idea that meritocracy is racist or that discrimination is acceptable to achieve diversity.
Opponents say the law will have a chilling effect on the teaching of subjects like slavery and segregation.
Similarly, opponents of the law preventing discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity say it marginalizes LGBTQ+ people. It received national attention and was mocked at the Oscars.
DeSantis and the Republicans say the law is reasonable and that parents, not teachers, should decide whether or not to have conversations about the issues with their children. It applies to students in kindergarten to grade 3 as well as older students who are not “age or developmentally appropriate”.
Another education law that has been controversially debated would set 12-year term limits for school board members and also give parents more influence over texts and library books than elementary schools can use.
All elementary schools will be required to provide a searchable list of all books available in their libraries or used in instruction. School boards must notify the public when considering approving new textbooks and allow anyone to comment. Any objection to the material, by a parent or not, must be reported to the state.
Democrats opposed the legislation, saying it amounted to censorship and likened it to burning books.
Another new education law that has received bipartisan support will replace standardized end-of-school-year tests with year-round assessments to better assess each student’s progress.
Other laws that will come into force on Friday include legislation that:
• Make it a crime to buy, sell or trade sexual images stolen from someone’s electronic devices. It also makes the dissemination of altered or created sexually explicit images, known as deepfakes, a crime, and enforces laws on child pornography, revenge pornography and bestiality.
• Remove the statute of limitations for sexual violence, certain acts of lewd and lascivious behavior and the use or promotion of sexual acts with children.
• Allow local governments to ban smoking on beaches and parks.
• Require background checks for apartment building employees, require apartments to keep a log for each unit’s keys, and increase notification for maintenance and repairs from 12 to 24 hours.
• Delete arrest records for minors charged with their first offense if they are in a diversion program.
• Allow religious institutions to continue to meet after some states declare emergencies.
• Make it easier for grandparents to get visitation rights to see their grandchildren.
• Make it easier for people who have experienced substance abuse or mental health issues to provide peer-to-peer services to others trying to overcome similar issues.
Brendan Farrington reports for The Associated Press.