The Florida Republican Party recently took the unusual step of siding with Gov. Ron DeSantis in a fight with GOP Senate leaders over whether employers should have to check the immigration status of new hires through a program called E-Verify.
But not even that will be enough to get the controversial immigration policy to DeSantis’ desk. At least not according to most of Florida Insiders.
With the legislative session at the mid-point, the Tampa Bay Times asked more than 150 lobbyist, politicians, activists, party workers, campaign staff and donors to handicap what will and won’t pass out of Tallahassee before lawmakers leave town in mid-March.
Almost two-thirds of these Insiders don’t think E-Verify, one of DeSantis’ top priorities, will survive. The big businesses that bankroll Republican campaigns hate it, Senate President Bill Galvano is against it and there’s just not enough time.
“It’s an election year,” one Republican said. “Pass the budget, grandstand on a bunch of stuff, get out of town.”
Others aren’t so sure. About one-fourth still think the Republican-controlled legislature will find a way to grant DeSantis’ wish. Popular executives with the president on their side aren’t often rebuked, one Republican suggested.
Another said DeSantis can turn E-Verify into “an immigration proxy fight with the snap of the his fingers” and House Republicans who dig their heels in “are going to be in a world of hurt” with their conservative base.
So what will pass? Nearly 8 in 10 Insiders predicted lawmakers would require parental consent for a minor to have an abortion — and the survey went out before the Senate passed a bill to do just that. Perhaps Republicans afraid of creating an election-year lightning rod will find a way to scuttle the bill, but that looks increasingly unlikely.
“As they have done for a couple of decades, the Legislature will continue to avoid dealing with the major issues facing Florida ... because any action on those issues would anger their political donors or voting base,” one Democrat said. “Instead they will pass legislation designed to stoke the base, such as more restrictions on abortion.”
Meanwhile, the Insiders don’t think the House will suddenly become receptive to new background checks on private gun sales, the Senate’s plan to deal with last year’s mass shootings. Just 12 percent think the idea will pass.
What about sports gambling? Don’t bet on it, 63 percent of Insiders say. That’s about the same who think that the Republican-controlled House and Senate will once again take money from the state’s affordable housing trust fund to pay for their pet projects.
The Times also asked what topic should lawmakers stay in Tallahassee until they address. “Teacher pay” was a popular answer. So was “fixing Amendment 4” (that’s apparently not happening, the Times reported last week). Others just want to see them pass a budget.
“If they had any sense about them, they’d address recreational marijuana before voters pass a constitutional amendment and we’re faced with the same uncertainty that followed the passage of medical marijuana,” one Democrat said. (Also not happening. Sensing a theme?)
Other answers: “Growth management." “Allowing students to take tests to show their capacity in their native language.” “There is an infrastructure crisis in Florida, that will just get kicked down the road again.” “Water quality.” “Criminal justice reform." “Invasive species.” “E-fairness, taxing online purchases.” “Tort reform.” “Climate change.” “Mental health, which is the source of most of the other issues.”
Ambitious? Yes. Will any of it pass? The Insiders aren’t even optimistic on their own wish list. About half said they don’t expect lawmakers to seriously address the most pressing problem facing the state. Maybe that’s why some say DeSantis won’t get the same bump out of this session as he did last year.
“The governor has been enjoying great press but it’s about to end,” one Democrat said. “He has done nothing to enfranchise felons or advancing sensible gun rules, is rolling over to allow the environmental disaster in the toll road schemes Galvano is pushing, won’t get his way on teacher pay or VisitFlorida and is too distracted by his presidential ambitions.”
The Times regularly surveys Insiders and allows them to answer annoymously to provide honest insight into the inner workings of state politics. This month, 155 people responded to the Florida Insider Poll — 48 percent Republicans, 40 percent Democrats and 12 percent no-party affiliation/other. The survey participants were:
Erin Aebel, Tom Alte, Jason Altmire, Fernand Amandi, Scott Arceneaux, Donna Arduin, Dave Aronberg, Brad Ashwell, Rick Asnani, Jon M. Ausman, Ryan Banfill, Scott Barnhart, Ashley Bauman, Geoffrey Becker, Samuel Bell, Taylor Biehl, Ron Bilbao, Greg Blair, Katie Bohnett, Paul Bradshaw, Alex Burgos, Dominic M. Calabro, Kristy Campbell, Tim Canova, Chip Case, Gabriela Castillo, Betty Castor, Kevin Cate, Alan Clendenin, Gus Corbella, Brian Crowley. Husein Cumber, Carlos Curbelo, David Custin, Justin Day, Ingrid Delgado, Hayden Dempsey, Richard DeNapoli, Pablo Diaz, Victor DiMaio, Tony DiMatteo, Michael Dobson, Paula Dockery, Doc Dockery, John Dowless, Bob Doyle, Pete Dunbar, Barry Edwards, Eric Eikenberg, Peter Feaman, Mark Ferrulo, Damien Filer, Marty Fiorentino, Mark Foley, Towson Fraser, John French, Tom Gaitens, Wayne Garcia, Stephen Gaskill, Josh Geise, Steve Geller, Richard Gentry, Susan Glickman, Susan Goldstein, Alma Gonzalez, Bob Graham, Ron Greenstein , Joe Gruters, Ralph Haben, Mike Hamby, Marion Hammer, Mike Hanna, Abel Harding, Jack Hebert, Rich Heffley, Bill Helmich, Cynthia Henderson, Laura Hernandez, Jim Horne, Tyler Hudson, Yolanda Jackson, Aubrey Jewett, Jeff Johnson, David Johnson, Christina Johnson, Stafford Jones, Eric Jotkoff, Doug Kaplan, Fred Karlinsky, Henry Kelley, Chris Kise, John Konkus, Chris Korge, Kartik Krishnaiyer, Bill Lee, Jackie Lee, Alan Levine, Shannon Love, Susan MacManus, Al Maloof, Javier Manjarres, Roly Marante, William March, Daniela Martins, Nancy McGowan, Kathy Mears, David Mica, Jamie Miller, Paul Mitchell, Lucy Morgan, John Morgan , Pat Neal, Samuel Neimeiser, Meredith O’Rourke, Alex Patton, Darryl Paulson, Jorge Pedraza, Scott Peelen, Juan Penalosa, Evelyn Perez-Verdia, Ron Pierce, JC Planas, Evan Power, Ryan Ray, George Riley, Jim Rimes, Patrick Roberts, Ron Sachs, Steven Schale, Tom Scherberger, Stephen Shiver , Patrick Slevin, Stephanie Smith, John Stemberger, Alan Stonecipher, Nancy Ann Texeira, Phillip Thompson, Cory Tilley, Frank Tsamoutales, Ryan Tyson, Christian Ulvert, Jason Unger, Matthew Van Name, Ashley Walker, Peter Wallace, Nancy Watkins, Jonathan Webber, Susie Wiles, Marley Wilkes, Rick Wilson, Gregory Wilson, Jon Woodard, Zachariah Zachariah, Christian Ziegler, Mark Zubaly.