TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida kept the same governor on election night— but got a different state legislature. Republicans grew their control of both chambers into supermajorities. Some political experts now think that may embolden them to challenge the state’s chief executive.
The executive and legislative branches can often be at odds on how to accomplish big goals, even if they’re a part of the same party. That hasn’t been an issue here in Florida for the last four years— but times can change.
In Gov. Ron DeSantis’s first four years, he largely got whatever he wanted from the GOP-controlled legislature. When he vetoed bills, lawmakers didn’t try to override him. The midterms secured DeSantis another four but also a term as a lame duck.
“A governor who cannot run again will be approached differently by the legislature than a governor who can run for reelection,” said USF Associate Prof. Josh Scacco, a political communications expert.
Scacco said it’s possible DeSantis’s carte blanche days may be numbered with the power dynamics changed. The 2/3rds control Republicans now wield in the House and Senate gives them the ability to push through whatever bills they might otherwise governor reject.
“You might actually see the legislature exerting independence from the governor in some instances going forward,” said Scacco.
What those instances might be is anyone’s guess. Earlier this year, DeSantis axed a number of member projects from the budget, a high-profile water bill, and a plan to reduce incentives for rooftop solar.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with [DeSantis], and I’ve gotten to know him, and we’ve had a lot of good conversations,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) this week.
When asked about the GOP’s newfound strength, the Senate president didn’t expect any bigs rifts with DeSantis in the coming sessions.
“We agree on so many things,” Passidomo said. “I don’t anticipate passing any legislation that he’d say— ‘Oh, no.’”
As further evidence of a solid relationship between the branches, leaders also sound ready to do the governor a big favor next year. Each said they support changing Florida’s “resign-to-run” law to benefit DeSantis should he decide to make a bid for the White House and lose.
House Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) said the state had been inconsistent on the issue in recent years, noting that lawmakers altered "resign-to-run" in 2008 and later backtracked to the current policy requiring someone like the governor to leave their post if they became a party nominee for president.
In these early days, it sure seems like the chambers will keep up their DeSantis deference. But we won’t know for sure until the gavel drops for the regular 60-day lawmaking session in March.