The following first appeared in the Buzz political newsletter, a weekly dive into the power, politics and influence shaping Florida from Political Editor Steve Contorno and the Tampa Bay Times politics team. To subscribe and receive it in your email inbox each week, click here.
If you’ve never heard of the Federalist Society, get familiar with it.
It’s an organization of conservative and libertarian lawyers that is reshaping courts in America — and in Florida. Here’s how.
Gov. Ron DeSantis was a member at Harvard. He spoke to the group in October. Its members fill the seats of the state’s judicial nominating commission, a powerful, behind-the-scenes committee that serves as a gatekeeper to judicial vacancies.
When it was time to pick three new faces for the Florida Supreme Court, DeSantis first ran his choices through the Federalist Society’s executive director. That’s how involved the organization is. The result is the most conservative Supreme Court in state history, one that is poised to make decisions that could change Florida forever. Here are some of the issues they will address in the near future.
Abortion. In 1989, the state Supreme Court struck down an attempt to make minors get parental consent for abortions. Thirty years later, abortion foes are hopeful a more conservative court will chip away at legal abortion. So they’re trying again. It failed last year. This year, it’s gaining momentum. Here’s what we know.
School choice. In another edition of “If at first you don’t succeed,” Florida Republicans were shot down by the Supreme Court in the 2000s when they tried to use taxpayer money for private school vouchers. DeSantis and Republicans passed a new voucher program this year that is on a collision course with the courts. Will justices side with Republicans this time?
Constitutional amendments. The fate of three proposed constitutional amendments lies in the hands of the high court. Attorney General Ashley Moody opposes all three. Assault weapons ban? Too vague, she said. Legalizing marijuana? Too long. Open primaries? Too misleading.
Will the court side with Moody, another Federalist Society disciple, or the petitioners who got these amendments on the ballot?
Amendment 4. Which Florida felons will get back their right to vote? The Supreme Court will decide. If you read the tea leaves, it sounds like they’re going to side with Republicans.
Gerrymandering. Florida lawmakers will draw new congressional and legislative boundaries in 2022. The state constitution says these lines can’t be drawn to favor one party. Who has protected this in the past when Republicans tried to push through partisan maps? The Supreme Court. Would this court do the same? Time will tell.