Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Religious Bills Into Law


Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law, HB 804, supporting volunteer ambulance services in the state and country.

Hatzalah of South Florida is the only private volunteer faith-based emergency response team in Florida. The non-profit emergency response team is located throughout Jewish neighborhoods.

“Our mission is to improve medical outcomes and save lives by augmenting existing emergency medical services in South Florida with community-based state-certified EMT volunteer responders,” a statement on the organization’s website reads.

The organization “operates under the supervision of a Medical Director and Medical Advisory Board and the guidance of a Rabbinical Board.”

“In South Florida, they have a fleet of vehicles, communications networks and trained emergency medicine professionals to provide volunteer ambulance services, however current Florida law did not recognize an ambulance providing volunteer services as an authorized emergency vehicle,” the governor said. “So this bill that I’ll sign today ensures faith-based volunteer first responder services like Hatzalah can operate in our state.”

DeSantis also signed a second bill, HB 529, that will provide public school students in Kindergarten through 12th grade a moment of silence in schools to “reflect and pray” as they see fit. He said this will protect the religious freedom of all those who attend public schools in Florida.

Two groups representing online companies sued Florida over a new law that seeks to punish large social media businesses like Facebook and Twitter if they remove content or ban politicians.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will allow the state to fine large social media sites if they inactivate a statewide politician's account and will let any Floridian sue those companies if they feel like they've been treated unfairly.

NetChoice, and the Computer and Communications Industry Association sued, saying the law violates First Amendment rights.

The suit filed in the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee says the law prevents companies from protecting users, advertisers and the public from “pornography, terrorist incitement, false propaganda created and spread by hostile foreign governments, calls for genocide or race-based violence, disinformation regarding Covid-19 vaccines, fraudulent schemes, egregious violations of personal privacy, counterfeit goods and other violations of intellectual property rights, bullying and harassment, conspiracy theories denying the Holocaust or 9/11, and dangerous computer viruses.”

DeSantis attacked Big Tech, comparing it to Big Brother in the George Orwell novel “1984.” He said internet companies are censoring posts that don't fit with the ideology of Silicon Valley.

The governor's office defended the new law, saying Big Tech companies discriminate on political and ideological line and the law protects Floridians constitutional rights.

“Big Tech is in some ways more powerful than government, and certainly less accountable. Free speech is a sacred right for all Americans. It is recognized that government has a role in protecting consumers against discrimination and deceptive/unfair trade practices, and this law is within that authority to rein in a powerful entity that oversteps individuals’ free speech rights,” DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said.

The law that goes into effect July 1 calls for a $250,000 a day fine if a statewide political candidate's account is inactivated and $25,000 a day if they remove an account of someone running for a local office.

White House Democrats to state lawmakers are slamming Gov. Ron DeSantis' signing of a new Florida elections bill.

The bill tightens rules around drop boxes and mail-in voting.

The new law restricts when ballot drop boxes can be used, who can collect ballots, and how many. Drop boxes must be guarded, available only when elections offices and early voting sites are open to protect against “ballot harvesting.” An electoral Good Samaritan can only collect and return the ballots of immediate family, and no more than two from unrelated people.

“Right now I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country,” the governor said. “We're not going to let political operatives go and get satchels of votes and dump them in some drop box.”

Democrats and voter rights advocates said the move will make it harder for voters to cast ballots.

"There are some states with bad laws that are trying to make them good and some states with good laws trying to make them even better. That's moving forward. Florida is moving in the wrong direction," White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

The League of Women Voters of Florida joined the Black Voters Matter Fund, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and others in attacking the new law in a federal lawsuit. A separate federal suit filed in Tallahassee by the NAACP and Common Cause also says the law targets people who are Black, Latino or disabled.

“For far too long, Florida’s lawmakers and elected officials have created a vast array of hurdles that have made it more difficult for these and other voters to make their voices heard,” these groups said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis used his executive powers to terminate all local COVID-19 orders, invalidating all local emergency orders.

“What I’m going to do is sign the bill, it’s effective July 1st, and I will also sign an executive order pursuant to that bill, invalidating all remaining local emergency COVID orders effective on July 1st. To bridge the gap between then and now, I am going to suspend, under my executive power, the local emergency orders as it relates to COVID,” said DeSantis. “I think folks that are saying they need to be policing people at this point, if you are saying that you are really saying that you don’t believe in the vaccine, you don’t believe in the data, you don’t believe in the science. We’ve embraced the vaccines, we’ve embraced the science on it, the data, I’ve said, has been good from the beginning of the clinical trials and it’s even better in real life. It’s available, we want everyone to get it and if you get it, just know that the reason you get it is because we want to be able to have people enjoy themselves and live freely in Florida.”

In Miami-Dade, restrictions have been easing as well, but not eliminated, as Miami-Dade Levine Cava is cautioning people to remain vigilant.

“I’m very concerned because we still are in an emergency. We have fewer than half our people vaccinated. We have new strains threatening us and we have an economy that is still struggling.”

DeSantis said other states are also doing away with their local emergency orders as vaccines become readily available, as the state now has a surplus of vaccines and demand has not kept pace with supply.

Florida lawmakers gave final approval to a permanent ban on COVID-19 vaccine “passports,” while also giving Gov. Ron DeSantis power to override local orders during health crises and directing state agencies to plan for future pandemics.

The Senate and House agreed on (SB 2006), after Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami Beach, tried unsuccessfully to make a change directed at a Miami private school that is discouraging teachers from getting COVID-19 vaccines.

“My district’s counting on us to push back against this quackery,” Pizzo pleaded.

Pizzo’s amendment failed in a 19-19 vote. Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, joined Democrats in supporting Pizzo.

“In Florida, you can get fired for protecting your health.” Pizzo released a statement. “That’s the message my Republican colleagues sent when they failed to protect everyday Floridians from being discriminated against or fired for following CDC guidance and getting a COVID vaccine.”

Photos by Getty Images


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