Diversity, immigration, abortion targeted in Florida bills

Florida Senate passes bills escalating culture war

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Senate escalated the culture war that’s dominated this year’s legislative session on Friday, passing bills on immigration, university diversity programs and allowing doctors to refuse treatment if they have moral objections to certain procedures.

Each of the issues fits in with the narrative Gov. Ron DeSantis laid out as he comes closer to announcing plans for a 2024 presidential campaign. The immigration bill includes language that will let DeSantis continue the program under which he flew immigrants last year from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Democrats argued vehemently against each bill, but Republicans have a supermajority that makes Democratic colleagues powerless to stop legislation from advancing. All three measures need House approval before going to DeSantis.

The immigration bill would expand requirements for employers to use EVerify to confirm people can work legally in the United States and prohibit local governments from providing money to organizations that issue identification cards to people illegally in the country. It also targets immigrants who are in the country illegally and who drive with licenses issued by other states.

"We have an illegal immigration crisis to the point where some people are actually calling it an invasion coming over our southern border, and I don’t use that word lightly – invasion,” said Republican Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, the bill’s sponsor.

Democrats, however, said the bill was politically inspired.

“It’s not our role to fix immigration, and all we are doing is being political, because it gives you guys an opportunity to say that the current administration is not managing immigration. But you never would have done this bill between the years of 2016 and 2020, and you know it,” said Democratic Rep. Tina Polsky, referring to former President Donald Trump's administration.

The higher education bill would prohibit state universities from using state or federal money on diversity, equity and inclusion programs, or to promote political or social activism.

DeSantis has regularly criticized diversity programs as racially divisive and discriminatory, saying they are part of the so-called “woke” ideology in education.

The healthcare bill would allow doctors to refuse to provide abortions, vasectomies or other procedures if the provider objects for religious reasons.