In his first legislative session leading the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis helped push through one of the most consequential and conservative agendas Florida has seen since the era of Jeb Bush.
Of the policies he championed, it’s the two major pieces of his education plan that will have the most lasting impact on people’s minds, according to Florida Insiders. More than health care deregulation, toll road expansion, banning so-called sanctuary cities and investments in the environment.
The Tampa Bay Times surveyed nearly 200 campaign operatives, lobbyists, money-raisers, political scientists and other veterans of Florida politics, and one-third said this will go down in the books as the session that allowed trained teachers to carry fire arms on school grounds. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter said the session will be remembered in 10 years for ushering in a massive expansion of taxpayer-funded private school vouchers. No other policies received as many votes.
Of course, many Insiders had their own thoughts on how Floridians will recall the legislation passed in 2019.
WHAT YOUR LAWMAKERS DID THIS YEAR: What passed and what failed in the legislature
“DeSantis coming in like the 800 pound gorilla,” one Democrat offered.
“Supreme Court appointments,” a Republican said.
But not everything on DeSantis’ wish-list made it through the Legislature. Looking ahead to next year, many Insiders believe Republicans will follow the lead of other GOP-controlled states and pass new restrictions on abortion. No anti-abortion bills passed this year, but three in 10 Insiders say that will change in 2020. That was the most-selected option, ahead of requiring term limits for elected school board members.
Though it had bipartisan support this year, Insiders were less optimistic that lawmakers will soon approve new workplace protections for LGBTQ people. Just 7 percent thought it will pass next year, about as many who said DeSantis will get his wish for a statewide mandate to verify the legal status of all workers through E-verify.
Overall, DeSantis earned high marks from Florida Insiders for navigating his first legislative session. Half of the respondents graded DeSantis an A for his first legislative and only one, a Democrat, slapped an F on him.
Democrats were far more divided on DeSantis than Republicans. Only two Republican respondents graded DeSantis below a B while half of Democrats said he deserved a C or worse.
The results were a bit more mixed and slightly less favorable to DeSantis than a similar poll in February. That one asked Insiders to grade DeSantis’ first month, and 90 percent gave him an A or B.
MORE ON DESANTIS: How an unpredictable Ron DeSantis is advancing Florida conservatism
Who were the winners and losers of all these weighty bills getting passed into law? Many, many said DeSantis was a winner. Here’s what other Insiders said:
Republican: “Minority Leaders (Sen. Audrey) Gibson and (Rep. Kionne) McGhee, who early on lost the confidence of their caucuses, and thereby any influence in the process.”
Republican: “Sad to say that the winner in this session was Florida’s environment and the protection it’ll receive. Sadly nothing was done to protect unborn human life.”
Democrat: “The public school children of Florida (lost). They were starved of funds due to special interests and charter schools.”
Democrat: “WINNERS: Thomas Peterffy, land developers, and the asphalt/highway construction lobby. LOSERS: Florida voters who thought the Governor and Legislature were serious about tackling our big environmental problems (outside of specific Everglades projects).”
Democrat: “Winner: (Senate President) Bill Galvano for hammering through a toll road bill that lacked a natural constituency. Loser: (Sen.) Tom Lee, a paragon of Big Government Conservatism, for choking citizens’ ability to reform their government by initiative.”
Republican: “Winner: Everglades. Loser: Immigrants/ felons”
Democrat: “Donald Trump. The GOP emerged with environmental successes and their agenda intact, creating a good presidential re-election climate and a strong governor.”
Democrat: “The losers were the people of Florida and public education. Big winners were the for-profit private school owners.”
Republican: “The schoolchildren. They are better protected from shooters.”
Independent/NPA: “Governor — got things done and overcame public image of him being a Trump clone; Loser: gambling interests.”
Democrat: “Loser: The Florida Hospital Association, long a collective political force in Tallahassee, which unsuccessfully fought to preserve their Certificate of Need while normally less influential health care sectors (e.g., hospice) maintained theirs.”
Independent/NPA: “Winner-Galvano for Highway Bill (Billionaire Boondoggle). Loser-(Sen.) Kelli Stargel abortion bill”
Republican: “(House Speaker) Jose Oliva and Bill Galvano both got their priorities and had a non confrontational relationship. Losers were the Democrats because this session really showed how irrelevant they are to politics in Florida during legislative session.”
Republican: “Winner is DeSantis. Loser is home rule for local governments.”
PAST FLORIDA INSIDER POLLS:
The Times regularly surveys some of Florida’s campaign staff, party leaders, consultants, operatives, fundraisers, prognosticators and other well-known politicos. We allow participants to weigh-in anonymously to encourage honesty from people closely involved in the political process, but we always print the name of all the participants. This month’s Florida Insiders are:
Erin Aebel, Tom Alte, Jason Altmire, Fernand Amandi, Gayle Andrews, Peter Antonacci , Scott Arceneaux, Donna Arduin, Dave Aronberg, Brad Ashwell, Jon M. Ausman, Roger Austin, Tim Baker, Michael Barnett, Scott Barnhart, Ashley Bauman, Slater Bayliss, Alan Becker, Geoffrey Becker , Samuel Bell, Wayne Bertsch, Taylor Biehl, David Bishop, Barney Bishop III, Greg Blair, Katie Bohnett, Matt Bryan, Bob Buckhorn, Alex Burgos, Dominic M. Calabro, Dean Cannon, Tim Canova, Al Cardenas, Chip Case, Betty Castor, Chris Cate, Mitch Ceasar, Alan Clendenin , Brad Coker, Mike Colodny, Gus Corbella, Brian Crowley, Ana Cruz, Husein Cumber, Darrick D. McGhee, Jim Davis, Hayden Dempsey, Richard DeNapoli, Victor DiMaio, Tony DiMatteo, Michael Dobson, Paula Dockery, Doc Dockery, Brett Doster, John Dowless, Bob Doyle, Pete Dunbar, Barry Edwards, Eric Eikenberg, Tre’ Evers, Alia Faraj-Johnson, Mike Fasano, Peter Feaman, Mark Ferrulo, Damien Filer, Marty Fiorentino, Terry Fleming, Mark Foley, Andy Ford, Towson Fraser, Keith Frederick, John French, Jack Furnari, Wayne Garcia, Stephen Gaskill, Josh Geise, Steve Geller, Richard Gentry, Julia Gill Woodward, Brian Goff, Susan Goldstein, Adam Goodman, Cindy Graves, Ron Greenstein , Joe Gruters, Stephanie Grutman, Marion Hammer, Abel Harding, Jack Hebert, Alex Heckler, Rich Heffley, Bill Helmich, Cynthia Henderson, Mike Hightower , James Holton, Jim Horne, Tyler Hudson, Aubrey Jewett, Christina Johnson, David Johnson, Jeff Johnson , Stafford Jones, Eric Jotkoff, Doug Kaplan, Fred Karlinsky, Joshua Karp, Henry Kelley, John Konkus, Chris Korge, Jeff Kottkamp, Kartik Krishnaiyer, Bill Lee, Jackie Lee, Matt Lettelleir, Jack Levine, Alan Levine, Tom Lewis, Nikki Lowrey, Susan MacManus, Al Maloof, Patrick Manteiga, Roly Marante, William March, Beth Matuga, Kim McDougal, Nancy McGowan, Claence McKee, Kathy Mears, Drew Messer, David Mica, Frank Mirabella, Frank Mirabella, Paul Mitchell, Ed Miyagishima, Travis Moore, John Morgan, Lucy Morgan, Ana Navarro, Pat Neal, Samuel Neimeiser, Meredith Orourke, Alex Patton, Darryl Paulson, Jorge Pedraza, Scott Peelen, Juan Penalosa, Evelyn Perez-Verdia, Joe Perry, Sean Phillippi, Ron Pierce, JC Planas, Evan Power, Marc Reichelderfer, George Riley, Jim Rimes, Terrie Rizzo, Patrick Roberts, Monica Rodriguez, Sarah Rumpf, Ron Sachs, Joe Saunders, Thomas Scarritt, Steve Schale, Tom Scherberger, April Schiff, Jack Seiler, Kathleen Shanahan, Stephen Shiver, Kyle Simon, Alex Sink, Patrick Slevin, Daniel Smith, Adam Smith, Eleanor Sobel, John Stemberger, Alan Stonecipher, Amber Stoner Nunnally, Nancy Texeira, Greg C. Truax, Frank Tsamoutales, Greg Turbeville, Steve Uhlfelder, Jason Unger, Greg Ungru, Matthew Van Name, Steven Vancore, Nancy Watkins, Screven Watson, Jonathan Webber, Andrew Weinstein, Susie Wiles, Rick Wilson, Leslie Wimes, Jon Woodard , Zachariah Zachariah, Mark Zubaly