Weekly Roundup: That’s a Wrap!

TALLAHASSEE — Lawmakers wrapped up the 2023 legislative session Friday by signing off on a record $117 billion budget after a week of marathon floor sessions in which the Republican-dominated Legislature delivered for Gov. Ron DeSantis.

While Republicans and Democrats battled throughout the session on major policy issues, the House and Senate passed the budget (SB 2500) and an accompanying $1.3 billion tax package (HB 7063) with little opposition.

Meanwhile, legislation that is ready to go to the governor stacked up throughout the week.

The Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a bill (SB 254) that would prevent doctors and other health-care providers from offering treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy to transgender minors.

DeSantis, who has called such treatments “child mutilation,” is expected to sign the bill.

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In an interview with The News Service of Florida, House co-sponsor Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, described the transgender treatments issue as a “fundamental battle over the future of our children.”

“The woke left does not believe in the idea of childhood,” Fine said. “They don’t believe in protecting children.”

The contentious legislation was among a slate of proposals targeted at transgender people. Legislators on Wednesday passed a bill (HB 1521) aimed at requiring people to use bathrooms that line up with their sex assigned at birth.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, argued during debate over the treatment bill that lawmakers should not create divisions for “political gain.”

“These (transgender people) are your neighbors, your friends, your loved ones, your co-workers,” Eskamani said. “They just want to be their authentic selves and access the health care they need to do so.”

Controversial bills that seek to make changes to Florida’s public schools and higher-education system also made it past the finish line this week.

In one of the most-controversial education issues of the session, the Senate on Wednesday passed a measure (HB 1069) that would expand last year’s “Parental Rights in Education” law — known to critics as “don’t say gay.” The bill also seeks to restrict the way teachers and students can use their preferred pronouns in schools, a provision that has drawn ire from LGBTQ-advocacy groups.

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In higher education, the House on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill (SB 266) that includes preventing colleges and universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

Praising legislative leaders for what he called “major, major reforms” in higher education, DeSantis on Friday touted the “elimination of so-called DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), and how that has been used as an ideological cudgel to impose ideology on the university.”



Former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum was acquitted this week on charges of lying to federal investigators, but jurors were unable to reach a verdict on conspiracy and fraud charges.

Thursday’s decision ended nearly five days of tumultuous jury deliberations and courtroom drama that included one juror posting information about the trial on social media and another making a mysterious request to meet with the judge.

It was clear in the run-up to Thursday that jurors were struggling to reach a verdict. The jury sent a note Tuesday to U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor saying they had reached agreement on the false-statements charge but were unable to come to a unanimous decision on at least one other charge. Federal prosecutors told Winsor that they intend to pursue a second trial.

Speaking to reporters outside the federal courthouse Thursday afternoon, Gillum said he and his family have been “under attack on all sides” for the past seven years.

“I just got to believe that, through this all, maybe one of the things that needed to be revealed to me is that this system is in desperate need of reform. And I’ll just say, ‘to be continued,’” Gillum, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence, said.

Winsor declared a mistrial on charges that Gillum, a former Tallahassee mayor, and his political mentor, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, bilked political contributors out of money and illegally steered it to Gillum for his personal use.

The charges against Gillum and Lettman-Hicks were related to activities between 2016 and 2019, as Gillum’s political star was on the rise. The pair were accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and committing wire fraud. Gillum also was charged with making false statements to federal investigators about his dealings with undercover agents who posed as developers during his time as mayor.

As the not-guilty verdict was announced in a crowded courtroom Thursday afternoon, Gillum wiped away tears. His wife R.Jai Gillum, seated a few feet behind him, silently wept. She and other family members tearfully clung to each other as a courtroom deputy announced “no verdict reached” on each of the 17 other charges involving conspiracy to commit wire fraud and committing wire fraud. Thursday also was R. Jai Gillum’s birthday.

A similar scene unfolded among Lettman-Hicks’ family members and allies as they heard “no verdict reached” on the 17 charges against her.

“Thank God Andrew Gillum is not guilty. And the rest, you know, is just theater,” Lettman-Hicks told reporters.


The Florida House on Thursday approved a plan to close the business-recruitment agency Enterprise Florida.

The measure would fold more than 20 programs from the public-private Enterprise Florida into the Department of Economic Opportunity, which would be renamed the Department of Commerce. It also would repeal the Office of Film and Entertainment.

The House has tried for years to eliminate programs such as Enterprise Florida. A deal was finalized after the House agreed to increase funding for the Visit Florida tourism-marketing agency from $50 million in the current fiscal year to $80 million in the 2023-2024 fiscal year, which will start July 1.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Florida lawmakers on Friday finalized a $117 billion budget and an accompanying $1.3 billion tax package to end a legislative session that carried out many of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ priorities.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “They’ve quite literally tried to take everything from us. And the beauty is that in our system, the powers that be don’t always get to decide. Everyday people like you and me sometimes get our swing at the ball and today the jury took it.” — Former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

Additional stories you may want to read:

Florida Lawmakers Say No More Forced Jabs or Face Mask Muzzles

No More Crazy Local Ordinances-New Florida Law Empowers the People

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