With the 2021 Legislative Session coming to a close, Governor Ron DeSantis put a cherry on top of a successful 60-day cycle during a town hall meeting Thursday night.
Sharing an Orlando town hall stage alongside “red state trailblazers,” DeSantis touted Florida’s legislative accomplishments during an hour-long Fox News event. Fielding questions from television host Laura Ingraham alongside Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, the Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, the Governor took one final victory lap — highlighting his three-tiered agenda aimed at protecting Floridians from bad actors like violent protesters, Big Tech, and pandemic trial lawyers — after the Republican-led legislature was able to get his priorities across the finish line before session reached its terminus.
Labeled as one of his primary issues, DeSantis defended an anti-riot bill that he signed into law on April 19. The legislation (HB 1) was one of the most controversial measures this session, with detractors claiming it tramples their rights to peacefully protest. The newly-minted law cracks down on mobs and increases penalties for crimes committed during riots. It also grants civil immunity to drivers who are illegally detained by protesters that block roadways.
“If you riot, if you loot, if you’re violent at one of these assemblies, we’re putting you in jail period,” said DeSantis.
The proposal came in response to the lawlessness that permeated throughout major cities across the country last summer after criminal mobs hijacked peaceful demonstrations and destroyed buildings and businesses. The Governor rolled out the framework for the law-and-order legislation last September following nationwide protests against systemic racism.
But that bill was just one component of DeSantis’ legislative mission.
The Governor also placed the crosshairs on Silicon Valley, promising to hold them accountable for controlling the flow of information and manipulating the narrative in Florida’s “public square.” Republicans successfully delivered on this issue, passing a bill that prohibits social media platforms from deplatforming political candidates. The measure (SB 7072) would fine social media companies who boot public officials from their sites. Those in violation would be forced to pay $10,000 a day if a political candidate is removed. That fine would skyrocket to $100,000 if it’s a statewide candidate seeking office.
“We’re fighting back in Florida. I’m going to sign a bill that will hold Big Tech accountable,” DeSantis told Ingraham before outlining the bill. “We cannot let the discourse in our country be controlled by leftist oligarchs in Silicon Valley.”
DeSantis also teased the fate of other bills that await his signature.
He promised to sign legislation that would prevent transgender athletes from playing on girls’ sports teams. Another hot-button issue, the bill (HB 1475) passed on Wednesday and seeks to prevent transgender athletes from competing in female K-12 or college sports teams, requiring them to play team sports based on their biological sex.
Proponents say the measure creates a more level playing field in female sports, while opponents argue that it discriminates against transgender kids who are already marginalized.
“We’re going to protect our girls. I have a 4-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old daughter. They’re very athletic. We want to have opportunities for our girls. “They deserve an even playing field. And that’s what we’re doing, that’s what Mississippi did, what Florida did, what other states are going to do, DeSantis exclaimed. “And I look forward to being able to sign that into law.”
DeSantis also said he would sign a contentious election security bill that passed Thursday. The measure (SB 90) would tighten voting rules by addressing election supervisors’ use of ballot drop boxes, signature matching on mail-in ballots and other issues related to voting-by-mail and election administration.
The bill’s inception stems from a nationwide effort by the GOP to strengthen the integrity of elections.
“We’re banning ballot harvesting. We’re making sure these Zuckerberg groups can’t come in and administer elections,” DeSantis added.
The Governor added that he would sign into a law a bill (SB 2006) that would ban COVID-19 vaccine “passports.”
“We’re not having vaccine passports in the state of Florida. Our legislature has passed what I asked for, and I will be signing that into law very soon,” DeSantis said, defending the passage of the measure.
“We’re not having vaccine passports in the state of Florida.”
“Our legislature has passed what I asked for, and I will be signing that into law very soon.” pic.twitter.com/jFwGFGW3cB
— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) April 30, 2021