Weekly Florida Roundup: All Eyes on Israel
Recap and analysis of the week in state government and politics.
TALLAHASSEE — Amid the war between Israel and Hamas, Gov. Ron DeSantis this week called for sanctions against Iran for aiding Hamas and declared a state of emergency that, in part, would allow Florida to transport supplies to Israel.
The governor and Republican presidential candidate on Tuesday went to a synagogue in South Florida to announce that he will ask lawmakers to further block Iranian business ties in Florida. Iran had already been included in Florida’s list of foreign countries “of concern,” along with China, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria.
With the “country of concern” designation, Florida since 2008 has prohibited state agencies and local governments from contracting for goods and services of more than $1 million with any business that has contracts with the Iranian government.
DeSantis said during the appearance Tuesday at the Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside that his new proposal will reinforce a commitment against doing business with state sponsors of terrorism. While a detailed proposal was not issued, it could affect such things as the financial, construction, manufacturing and mining sectors, according to information released by his office.
“We’re going to prohibit state and local governments from contracting with any company on this expanded sectors list, and we will not lift the sanctions until both the president and the U.S. Congress certify that Iran has stopped supporting international terrorism in seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction,” DeSantis said.
The governor’s proposal to broaden sanctions against Iran got immediate support from Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast.
But Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat whose parents immigrated from Iran, questioned the effectiveness of the proposal.
“I have never even heard of a state sanctioning a foreign country, and the United States has already placed heavy sanctions on Iran which have been pretty constant through several presidents,” Eskamani said.
The 2024 session will start in January. Eskamani said resolutions have been filed for the session supporting the people of Israel. And she suggested Florida could expand “services and provide financial support for refugees.”
DeSantis followed up Thursday by issuing the emergency declaration, with his office saying the action would allow the Florida Division of Emergency Management to “bring Floridians home and transport necessary supplies to Israel.”
The declaration came as the federal government said it was arranging charter flights to transport Americans. Some commercial airlines halted service to Israel amid the escalating war that started Saturday with Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel.
DeSantis’ order, in part, called for the activation of the Florida National Guard and Florida State Guard as needed and authorized the state emergency management director to carry out an emergency-management plan and “other response, recovery and mitigation plans necessary to cope with the emergency, including any logistical, rescue or evacuation operations.”
A news release from DeSantis’ office did not provide details about how bringing Floridians stateside and transporting supplies to Israel could be undertaken.
MOODY FIGHTS AMENDMENT
A Monday filing in the state Supreme Court signaled Attorney General Ashley Moody will try to block a ballot initiative that would enshrine abortion rights in the Florida Constitution.
The Supreme Court must review the initiative’s proposed wording and determine if it meets legal requirements for clarity and dealing only with a single subject. In the filing Monday, Moody wrote that the initiative “does not satisfy the legal requirements for ballot placement.”
Moody also wrote an opinion piece that ran on the Florida’s Voice website in which she said her opposition to the issue going on the November 2024 ballot “has nothing to do with my personal views on abortion.”
“Instead, as I have done throughout my two terms, I have objected to initiatives when the language of the summary will mislead voters,” Moody wrote in the opinion piece.
Moody also is asking the Supreme Court to block a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow recreational use of marijuana.
The proposed abortion amendment would bar laws that restrict abortions “before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.”
Moody in the opinion piece pointed to the proposed amendment’s use of the word “viability,” writing that the term can have more than one meaning.
The group Floridians Protecting Freedom launched the ballot initiative in May after the Republican-controlled Legislature and DeSantis approved a bill that seeks to prevent abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
Along with needing Supreme Court approval of the proposed wording, Floridians Protecting Freedom must submit at least 891,523 valid signatures by a Feb. 1 deadline to get on the ballot.
The committee released a statement Tuesday disputing Moody’s argument about the wording.
“The proposed amendment is clear and precise in limiting government interference with abortion ‘before viability,’” Floridians Protecting Freedom Campaign Director Lauren Brenzel said in the statement. “Viability in the abortion context has always meant the stage of fetal development when the life of a fetus is sustainable outside the womb through standard medical measures.”
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday at least temporarily halted an appeals-court ruling that would allow the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer sports betting throughout the state.
Chief Justice John Roberts issued an order imposing a stay after the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia this summer upheld a gambling deal between the state and the tribe that included sports betting.
Roberts’ order came after pari-mutuel companies West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. sought a stay as they prepare to ask the Supreme Court to take up a challenge to the appeals-court ruling.
The order said what is known as a “mandate,” which is a final step in the appeals-court ruling, is “hereby recalled and stayed pending further order of the undersigned (Roberts) or of the (Supreme) Court.” The order did not detail the reasons for the decision.
STORY OF THE WEEK: Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday declared a state of emergency in response to the war between Israel and Hamas, with his office saying the declaration allows the Florida Division of Emergency Management to “bring Floridians home and transport necessary supplies to Israel.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “In this time of crisis, we’re focused on getting things done and supporting Israel, that’s where our heads are.” — National Security Council spokesman John Kirby during a White House briefing Thursday
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