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Florida Republicans hand DeSantis first major legislative win

Republican lawmakers, who hold supermajorities in the Legislature, are moving rapidly to carry out the governor’s wish list.

Sen. Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) called the bill “a gift from our governor to big businesses at the expense of our citizens and small businesses.”

The Senate voted 23-15 for the bill, HB 837, with five Republicans voting no and one Democratic legislator voting in favor of the measure. The House approved the bill last week.

The special interest groups that warred over the bill are bracing with rapid fallout from the legislation, claiming that thousands of lawsuits will be filled from some of the state’s well-known firms in order to get ahead of the new regulations.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce also announced it would start a legal fund to help defend the new law and that former Supreme Court Justice Alan Lawson, an appointee of former Gov. Rick Scott, would lead the effort.

Curry Pajcic, the president of the Florida Justice Association, did not say whether his group or others would move to block the changes after DeSantis signs them into law. But Pajcic, in a statement, said that “in just three short weeks, Florida lawmakers rushed through some of the largest rights-grabbing legislation in recent history.” He called it “a direct assault on the rights of every Floridian by insurance companies and corporate elites who think they can dictate which rights should be preserved and which can be tossed aside.”

Legislators are expected to quickly pass many of the governor’s other top priorities by the midway point of the session in early April — which will be shortly before DeSantis is scheduled to take another out-of-state trip including a visit to early primary state New Hampshire. DeSantis is widely expected to announce his 2024 presidential bid after the annual legislative session ends.

While Florida’s 60-day session is condensed compared to some other states, lawmakers usually handle high profile or contentious bills near the end. Part of the calculus is that in the past, legislative leaders tie the fate of major bills to negotiations with the annual budget, which is the one piece of legislation lawmakers are supposed to approve each year.

Democrats contend the torrid pace is to assist DeSantis’ expected presidential bid, but GOP legislators have brushed aside that suggestion.

“What really is the priority here isn’t any future election,” said Rep. Daniel Perez, a Miami Republican and the House Rules chair. “The priority here is why is Florida leading the country in so many different categories. Why are people flocking to Florida? It’s because of the policies we passed and this legislative session is a continuation of that.”

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