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Will DeSantis have to resign to run for president? Lawmakers want to change rules.

An amendment would exempt candidates for president and vice president from resigning to run.
 
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Heritage Foundation 50th Anniversary Celebration leadership summit, Friday, April 21, 2023, in Oxon Hill, Md.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Heritage Foundation 50th Anniversary Celebration leadership summit, Friday, April 21, 2023, in Oxon Hill, Md. [ ALEX BRANDON | AP ]
Published April 25, 2023|Updated April 26, 2023

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers are poised to change state law to allow Gov. Ron DeSantis to remain in his seat if he decides to run for president.

An amendment to an elections bill, released Tuesday, would carve out an exemption from the state’s resign-to-run law for candidates for president or vice president.

SB 7050 and its amendment could be voted on the Senate floor as soon as Wednesday.

Legislative leaders have been wondering whether such a change would be necessary as DeSantis considers a 2024 run for the White House.

Related: Florida may tweak resign-to-run law to aid a potential DeSantis 2024 run, leaders say

The law currently says that “any officer who qualifies for federal public office must resign from the office he or she presently holds if the terms, or any part thereof, run concurrently with each other.”

Some have interpreted that law to say that a Florida candidate running for federal office wouldn’t have to resign from their current elected position as long as they’re not also trying to be reelected to that position.

Those include Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, who is sponsoring SB 7050 and introduced the amendment Tuesday. Hutson wrote the current resign-to-run law in 2018.

“I don’t think it is necessary,” Hutson said of his amendment. “I think my bill (from 2018) was crystal clear.”

But he said he heard from enough people who disagreed, including legal scholars, that he decided to clarify it.

If DeSantis were to win the GOP nomination and the presidency, he would have to give up the final two years of his governorship. He’s term-limited from seeking a third term.

DeSantis hasn’t said if he’s running for president, but he’s been making moves as if he intends to run. He released a book this year, he has traveled to Iowa and other early primary states, and a federal super PAC claims to have raised $30 million supporting his bid.

It wouldn’t be the first time lawmakers changed the state’s resign-to-run law to help a candidate they liked. In 2007, as then-Gov. Charlie Crist was being considered as a running mate for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid, lawmakers removed the requirement that federal candidates had to resign from their current office.

In 2018, lawmakers changed the law again, explicitly outlining the requirement for candidates running for federal office to resign and removing an exception for presidential and vice presidential candidates, saying federal candidates must resign no later than 10 days before qualifying for office.

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