Jerry Kremer

Something’s going wrong in Florida


There are so many things to write about these days, so many new headlines. But I can’t help writing about the state of Florida, because it seems more detached from America than any of the other 49 states.
I keep thinking it must be the water that’s making the state’s politicians go crazy, but I’m convinced that the issue is much bigger than H2O content. And the craziness doesn’t begin and end with Gov. Ron DeSantis, because he needs a state legislature to go along with his daily menu of new laws that make Florida look more and more like Russia.
The six-week ban on abortions is designed to help DeSantis win Republican primaries for the White House. I know DeSantis is married, but any clear-minded politico should know that the average woman has no idea that she is pregnant during the first six weeks. In addition, every poll taken by either the far right or the far left shows that the majority of Americans don’t want abortion banned.
It’s almost as if there are no television stations or other forms of media in Florida, because if there were, DeSantis would have learned that a bipartisan group of South Carolina women legislators were blocking a bill that would ban all abortions. In addition, many red states are being told by the courts that their bans are going too far. To show how crafty DeSantis thinks he is, he signed the abortion ban late on a Thursday night, apparently with the hope that the media wouldn’t find out about his latest political gambit.
Another issue is DeSantis’ battle with Disney World, which is the state’s second-largest tourist attraction, after the cruise industry. The theme park accounts for more than 20 million visitors a year and billions in tourism dollars. When you have such a good thing going, why would any sane governor start a fight that he is destined to lose?

DeSantis’ battle with Disney began when Disney spoke out against the governor’s fight with the LGBTQ community. The First Amendment protects free speech, and Disney is entitled to the same protections as any ordinary citizen. Angered by Disney’s position, DeSantis has tried to strip it of its special tax district status, to stop Disney from having a say over the sprawling community that lives off of the entertainment empire’s success. Without Disney, hundreds of thousands of people would lack adequate fire, police or sanitation services.
To add to the craziness in Florida, the governor has announced that a whole series of textbooks will be banned from use in the state’s public schools, because of his and school parents’ objections to some of the content in those books. He has further ordered that a number of books have their language revised, because the words “are not truthful.” Mentions of the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement have been removed from one middle school textbook. Apparently, DeSantis believes that the Floyd tragedy was some sort of fake news.
If you’re not out of breath yet, here’s another scary fact of Florida life. Thousands of schoolteachers have left the state for other regions, out of fear of prosecution for accidently discussing some subject that the governor thinks is objectionable. It is estimated that Florida will need thousands of new teachers to make up for those losses, and it doesn’t look like those new teachers will be coming in the near future.
Recent opinion polls show former President Donald Trump with a wide lead over DeSantis early in the race for the Republican nomination for president. That lead isn’t a tribute to Trump, but rather a sign of growing dissatisfaction with DeSantis, which could leave the door open to any number of candidates, many of whom have yet to announce their availability.
Many Republicans are hungering for a fresh face to take on Trump next year. But the events in Florida over the past two years make it seem as if voting for DeSantis could be the equivalent of voting for Vladimir Putin. Somehow, the only people who haven’t caught on to DeSantis’ weaknesses are Florida residents. Maybe it is the water.

Jerry Kremer was an Assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column?