Florida lawmakers finished the extended 2022 legislative session Monday by approving the final 2022-23 state budget — a whopping $112 billion dollars.
Lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis met in the afternoon at the 4th floor of the state Capitol building to close out the Legislature’s work, with the annual “sine die” tradition of the handkerchief drop to adjourn the two-month session.
In the waning days, crowds of protesters had met on that 4th floor, but their efforts failed to block culture-war bills. Earlier, protesters hoped to block a 15-week abortion ban, but those efforts also failed.
It’s not clear if there will be another special session to deal with congressional redistricting, with a political impasse between Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature.
On Monday, DeSantis and legislative leaders touted their accomplishments for the session, echoing similar themes of increasing pay for state workers and empowering families.
“This really was the year of the parent for the state of Florida,” DeSantis said Monday.
“And I can just say, as the parents of three kids that are age five and under,” DeSantis said Monday, “thank you for letting me and my wife be able to send our kids to kindergarten without them being sexualized.”
HB 7 restricts how race and gender are discussed in Florida classrooms and workplaces, with opponents saying it will chill important conversations on history, particularly African-American history.
“If you look at the transparency provisions, if you look at what they did to make sure that we’re not treating people different on the basis of race, we in Florida showed a commitment to education, not to indoctrination,” DeSantis said.
He also showed his support for HB 1557, which restricts classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents of the bill call it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, but those in support of the legislation say claim it protects young students from being exposed to discussions on sexual activity. The phrase “sexual activity” is not in the bill.
Senate President Wilton Simpson highlighted a $15 minimum wage increase for state workers and school support staffers in 67 school district, plus employees in certain other professions in Florida.
“If you work in a nursing home, if you work as a bus driver, if you are someone that’s working every day with our most vulnerable children or adults, you’re going to get $15 an hour four years ahead of time,” Simpson said. (The state minimum wage is set to increase to $15 an hour in 2026, but the 2022-23 budget year jumpstarts that for thousands of state and district employees.)
House Speaker Chris Sprowls spoke about HB 7065, which would boost fatherhood and mentorship programs in Florida, one of his legislative priorities.
“This was a legislative session focused on Florida families,” Sprowls said Monday. “Empowering them. Lifting them up. Helping them in their darkest times. Whether its going shopping or figuring out who’s going to be the person to take care of them or look after them. Whether it’s tackling the fatherlessness crisis…or whether it’s the great work of President Simpson did and making sure we revamp our adoption and our foster care system, putting more resources and more efforts into at risk kids than ever before.”
That said, for another year in a row, the Legislature, flush with cash, did not expand Medicaid for Florida’s most vulnerable residents.
While the Legislature approved the bills, DeSantis still has to approve the measures.
The start of the Monday press conference was interrupted by a protester raining fake $100 dollar bills over the railing of the 5th floor down to the 4th floor where DeSantis spoke. He chanted “fund communities, not corporations.”
Phoenix reporters could not see how the situation was resolved, but the commotion died down relatively quickly.
–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix