DeSantis goes on anti-LGBTQ rampage before announcing presidential run / by Brendan Farrington and Anthony Izzaguirre

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds up all the anti-LGBTQ and racists bills he signed during ceremony at the Coastal Community Church in Lighthouse Point, Fla. | Wilfredo Lee / AP

Originally published in the People’s World on May 19, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP)—Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed bills Wednesday that ban gender-affirming care for minors, target drag shows, restrict discussion of personal pronouns in schools, and force people to use certain bathrooms.

DeSantis has made anti-LGBTQ legislation a large part of his agenda as he prepares to seek the Republican presidential nomination. He signed the bills in front of a cheering crowd at the evangelical Cambridge Christian School in Tampa. The ceremony had a campaign-like feel, with DeSantis tossing Sharpies to a crowd, as opposed to when he privately signed measures on abortion and gun rights.

The state’s legislative session, scheduled to end this week, has been dominated by divisive cultural issues, with Republican allies of DeSantis approving his priority bills on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, and education that are expected to aid the governor in his presidential bid.

The Senate on Wednesday voted to expand the “Don’t Say Gay” law, a major calling card of DeSantis, with a sweeping bill that prevents school staffers or students from being required to refer to people by pronouns that don’t correspond to the person’s sex.

Dozens of activists stage a sit-in outside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office and force people to step over them to enter as they protest the governor and his policies. | Alicia Devine / Tallahassee Democrat via AP

It also bans classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation up to the 8th grade, legally reinforcing a DeSantis administration move to prohibit such lessons in all grades. Additionally, the bill strengthens the system in which people can lodge challenges against school books, another DeSantis initiative that has led to the removal of material he and his supporters argue are inappropriate for children.

“Think about what we’re doing, honestly. Think about how this will affect families that don’t look like yours,” said Sen. Tracie Davis, a Democrat. “They’re still families. They’re Florida families. But we’re treating them like they’re outsiders and we’re telling them we don’t want them here.”

The House also approved a proposal to ban people from entering bathrooms that do not correspond to their sex, a bill aimed at transgender bathroom use.

Democrats opposed the bills, and LGBTQ rallies were held at the Capitol during the session that ended two weeks ago. But Republicans have a super-majority in both chambers and easily approved the bills for DeSantis’ signature.

“It’s kind of sad that we even have some of these discussions,” DeSantis told the crowd, standing behind a lectern with a sign reading “Let Kids Be Kids.”

DeSantis presented a narrative that expert panels in the nation’s major medical associations have said is false, such as the idea that children are routinely being “mutilated.” While he said he is protecting parents’ rights, his opponents say he is denying the rights of parents with transgender kids.

“They have cloaked themselves in being the party of less government and parental rights, and what we’re seeing now is the total opposite,” said Democratic state Sen. Shevrin Jones, who is gay. “Every other parent has the right to raise their child the way that they want to as long as your child is not gay, trans, bisexual. That’s freedom for some parents, but not for all parents.”

The gender care law also bans the use of state money for gender-affirming care and places new restrictions on adults seeking treatment.

Three Florida parents have asked a federal court to issue a temporary restraining order immediately blocking the new law’s enforcement. Attorneys for the families, who have a pending challenge to the state Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine, will be in court on Friday to argue that their children should be able to receive medical care as the case continues. The families are represented by Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Human Rights Campaign.

Planned Parenthood immediately started canceling gender-affirming care appointments after the bill was signed as the organization assesses the law’s implications.

Transgender medical treatment for children and teenagers is increasingly under attack in many states and it has lately been subject to restrictions or outright bans. But it has been available in the United States for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations as appropriate care for people diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Their guidelines generally prevent surgery for minors.

Treatment typically begins with an evaluation for the distress caused when gender identity doesn’t match a person’s assigned sex. With parental consent, persistent dysphoria can be treated with hormones, but typically not until age 16. The guidelines also say surgery should be reserved for people 18 and older.

But DeSantis spoke to applause at the bill signing.

“We never did this through all of human history until like, what, two weeks ago? Now this is something? They’re having third-graders declare pronouns? We’re not doing the pronoun Olympics in Florida,” DeSantis said.

The gender-affirming care ban and the law targeting drag shows go into effect immediately. The bathroom restrictions and the law banning schools from forcing children to “provide his or her preferred personal title or pronouns” take effect July 1.

Jones said the governor’s choice of venue displayed the unpopularity of his campaign platform.

“If he’s so confident in his policies, don’t go hiding behind signing the bills at a Christian school or place where you’re more prone to get praise for your bigotry,” Jones said. “Do it out in the community. “

Republican Rep. Randy Fine, who sponsored the ban on gender-affirming care for minors, invoked his religion to defend the state’s actions.

“God does not make mistakes with our children,” Fine said.

Demonstrators protest outside the Florida House chambers against bills on gender-transition bans, bathroom use, and keeping children out of drag shows. | Brendan Farrington / AP

Jones called Fine’s take on the Bible disingenuous.

“For anyone to use Scripture in the same breath as you are being discriminatory and hateful towards a community of people, it doesn’t work like that,” Jones said. “You can’t take a book that was built on love and turn it around and fit your narrative.”

Separately, Republicans in the House gave final passage to a DeSantis priority bill that bans colleges from using state or federal funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.

Republican lawmakers in at least a dozen states have proposed more than 30 bills this year targeting diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in higher education.

DeSantis is expected to formally announce his presidential candidacy after the end of the legislative session. He has spent significant time in recent months traveling to battleground states and elsewhere to promote his conservative agenda and trumpet his policies on race, gender, and education.

Brendan Farrington is Tallahassee Correspondent, Associated Press.

Anthony Izaguirre is Associated Press reporter for Florida.

Supreme Court guts Clean Air Act, puts every government regulation in jeopardy / by C.J. Atkins

Emissions rise from the smokestacks at the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant as the sun sets, Sept. 18, 2021, near Emmett, Kan. The right-wing-dominated Supreme Court says the EPA has no power to regulate emissions by power plants, setting the stage for a speed-up of climate change. | Charlie Riedel / AP

Continuing a right-wing rampage that has already seen abortion rights gutted, the open carrying of guns given free rein, eviction moratoriums killed off, and coronavirus controls eviscerated, the Supreme Court on Thursday gave big fossil fuel corporations the freedom to fill our air with more planet-warming carbon dioxide.

In a 6-3 ruling, the conservative majority announced it was stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate emissions from power plants. The move destroys the core of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and puts the Biden administration’s plans for fighting climate change in jeopardy.

And with its broad denunciation of the power of government agencies to enact rules and standards without specific and down-to-the-last-detail instructions from Congress, the court has also potentially put every regulation on the chopping block—not just when it comes to emissions, but also things like safety conditions in the workplace, fair wages, exposure to toxins, environmental protection, what bathroom transgender students can use, which people can cast a ballot and how, and more.

The decision is a preview of what the far-right and its corporate backers envision for the country.

Victory for fossil fuels, loss for life on Earth

The ruling is a major win for polluting energy corporations. EPA data shows that the power sector is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, but now it will be largely beyond the reach of environmental regulation.

A mechanized shovel loads coal onto a haul truck at the Cloud Peak Energy’s Spring Creek mine near Decker, Mont. | Matthew Brown / AP

Corporate energy giants will be able to fatten their profits by saving on costly emissions control measures in their plants and offload the cost of environmental contamination onto the rest of us—via dirtier air, increased respiratory health problems, and a speed up in climate change and all the problems it brings.

The decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, sides with big energy producers and Republican attorneys general at the state level who have been trying for years to tie the hands of the EPA.

The court declared that the EPA is severely limited in its ability to regulate the fossil fuel sector as a whole and that it can only deal with major pollution issues that crop up at specific individual plants. It also rules out pursuing other climate change-combatting measures through the EPA, such as a carbon cap-and-trade market.

Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the dissent of the three Democratic-appointed justices, warned, “Today, the court strips the Environmental Protection Agency of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.’”

She wrote that right-wing justices had appointed themselves, “instead of Congress or the expert agency [EPA],” to be the “decision maker on climate policy.” Kagan said she “cannot think of many things more frightening.”

Climate change activists and environmentalists expressed outrage—but no surprise—at what the right-wing majority did.

The executive director of Food and Water Watch, Wenonah Hauter, characterized the ruling as “part of a broad-based assault on the ability of regulators to protect our air, water, and climate.” She said the decision has been “long-sought by corporate polluters, industry-backed think tanks, and politicians who serve monied fossil fuel interests.”

“A Supreme Court that sides with the fossil fuel industry over the health and safety of its people is anti-life and beyond broken,” John Paul Mejia, a spokesperson for the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said immediately after the decision was announced. “We cannot and will not let our Democratic leaders stand by while an illegitimate court and the GOP go on the offense.”

The Biden administration’s promise to put the nation on a path toward 100% clean electricity by the middle of the next decade may be sunk because of the ruling, as the president’s plan hinged on using tougher regulation to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels like coal.

It was a continuation of moves made by the Obama administration under its “Clean Power Plan,” which never went into effect thanks to endless lawsuits by power companies and Republican-run states, an earlier Supreme Court block, and a repeal by the Trump administration. The current court decision stems from one of those previous lawsuits.

Environmental groups were already skeptical of the scheme even before the Supreme Court’s ruling, however, because the government, even under Biden, has also approved many new oil and gas leases on public lands recently—moves seemingly at odds with the goal of reducing fossil fuel reliance.

Regardless, the entire plan now faces a rethink. Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that “capping carbon dioxide emission at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity” might sound sensible, but that the law does not allow it.

The impact of the court’s decision could go far beyond just emissions controls and sets a precedent for destroying the power of government to regulate almost anything.

Part of a bigger corporate offensive

Among legal and constitutional scholars, the EPA case has been called the “administrative state” case.

The term “administrative state” is a somewhat obscure one outside the circles of political science and public administration scholars, but it’s one Republicans use regularly in their meetings with disdain.

Dwight Waldo, a professor and former government price control official, first coined the term “administrative state” in 1948. He wrote that public servants should be informed, active agents of change dedicated to improving people’s lives and strengthening democratic participation.

He asserted that the orthodox notion of bureaucrats who just mindlessly follow orders from the top was incompatible with democracy. Bureaucrats had a responsibility to serve the public, not just their political masters.

The most important principle of the administrative state idea was that government cannot be run like a business. Democracy, the Constitution, and public interest required adherence to higher criteria than simply watching out for the bottom line or following orders.

Republicans have long detested the notion of such a government and have systematically set out to destroy it. The Trump administration, in particular, took steps to undermine the ability of agencies (like the EPA) to pursue the public interest, and instead wanted them to follow edicts issued by the president or his appointees—essentially, a more dictatorial arrangement.

At the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference, top Trump advisor Steve Bannon laid out plans to strip apart the power of federal government agencies to regulate big business by reshaping executive branch cabinet departments and the courts.

Enumerating all the cabinet appointments that the incoming President Trump had made at that time, Bannon stated that the people chosen were all “selected for a reason…deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Bannon continued: “Every business leader we’ve had in is saying it’s not just taxes, but it is also the regulation… the way the progressive left runs, if they can’t get it passed, they’re just gonna put in some sort of regulation in…in an agency.” He vowed, “They’re all going to be deconstructed.”

What followed was a shock-and-awe campaign of rapid-fire executive orders, policy guidance memoranda, and a directive to drop two regulations for every new one implemented. Demanding adherence to presidential authority and extreme loyalty on the part of cabinet secretaries and other officials, the Trump White House made it clear that it viewed the entire American government as an instrument to be wielded by the man at the top.

Bureaucrats that don’t obey? They were shown the door. Courts that won’t validate decisions? Pack the judiciary with the most pro-business judges you can find so that you win next time. Total authority and unrestricted executive power was the goal.

Think tanks like the Heritage Foundation provided the intellectual ammunition, publishing claims that the “growth of the administrative state can be traced, for the most part, to the New Deal (and subsequent outgrowths of the New Deal like the Great Society).” Any pro-people policy that has come about since the 1930s was lumped into the trash pile.

And because presidential administrations come and go (though Jan. 6, 2021, showed that the Republicans wanted to do away with even that reality), the ultimate weapon in this war was to be the Supreme Court.

Speaking of Trump’s appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch at the 2017 CPAC meeting, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the Republicans would use the courts to cement their policies in place for a long time to come: “We’re not talking about a change over a four-year period. We’re talking about a change of potentially 40 years of law.”

Republican strategy comes to fruition

Thursday’s decision to gut the power of the EPA is proof that the GOP-corporate offensive against all government regulations is well underway. This ruling is a goalpost along the route that the extreme right ideologues and servants of big capitalists in the Republican Party want to take the country down.

Today, it is the struggle to reverse climate change which is under attack, but so many other things will follow.

The situation calls for massive mobilization at the polls in November and immediate pressure on elected officials to use the power of new legislation to codify regulatory power and make it resistant to elimination by the courts.

Youth activists march in the “No Climate, No Deal” rally in Lafayette Square in Washington, June 28, 2021. The rally, held by the Sunrise Movement, called on President Joe Biden to uphold his climate commitments in his infrastructure proposal and pass more climate and justice initiatives. The Supreme Court’s anti-EPA decision has made presidential action even more urgent. | Caroline Brehman / CQ Roll Call

When it comes to the climate, a coalition of over 1,200 environmental groups, People vs. Fossil Fuels, is calling on Biden to use the authority he still has to “declare a climate emergency and stop new fossil fuel leases, exports, pipelines, and other infrastructure today.”

It pointed to the powers of the presidency under the National Emergencies Act and the Defense Production Act, saying Biden could “also halt crude oil exports, stop offshore oil and gas drilling, restrict international fossil fuel investment, and rapidly manufacture and distribute clean and renewable energy systems.”

Hauter, of Food and Water Watch, said that “while this ruling intends to hamstring the federal government’s ability to regulate dangerous emissions, it does not signal the end of climate action.”

State-level regulatory action now moves to the frontline, especially where Democratic governors and legislative majorities prevail. There, in alliance with growing climate justice movements, progress is being made to achieve carbon neutrality. Such efforts now have to expand further.

Hauter vowed that the climate movement “must and will continue to pressure agencies and elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels to enact policies that ensure a swift reduction in climate pollution and an end to the fossil fuel era.” She said not even the Supreme Court can “stand in the way of the fight for a livable planet.”

It won’t stop the right-wing majority on the court from trying, though. Still expected in the coming days is a decision on a major immigrant rights case, and the Supreme Court has also announced it will hear a case that could give Republican state legislatures unchecked power to suppress votes via gerrymandered districts—setting the stage for widespread election fraud in 2024.

It all makes getting out the vote for this fall’s midterms even more essential.

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. C.J. Atkins es el editor gerente de People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

People’s World, June 30, 2022,

A plot to destroy U.S. democracy is centered in statehouses / by John Wojcik

Pennsylvania Republican state legislator, Doug Mastriano, as he appeared with MAGA supporters the night he won the Republican primary election. Mastriano, now the GOP candidate for governor, is both a 2020 election denier and a strong advocate of giving the Republican-controlled legislature in his state the power to nullify the people’s choice in presidential elections. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Hundreds of GOP state legislators in at least nine states have either already put in place or are now pushing new laws that will make Republican state legislators the decisive factor in who wins elections. The laws allow them to reverse the results of popular votes for president and select their own electors committed to their choice if a Democrat should win their states. The last chance to stop the threat is the 2022 elections currently underway. By 2024, when we vote again in a presidential election, it could be too late.

We already see how GOP state legislators are leading the way in attacks on women’s abortion rights, in purging and banning books from libraries and schools, in drawing gerrymandered district lines that make it impossible for Democrats and minority communities to win elections, in cutting tens of thousands of voters off the rolls, and in cancelling mail voting, ballot drop boxes and other measures to increase voter participation. It is clear that state legislative bodies are now the chief venue used by the GOP to ram their policies down the throats of the majorities of Americans who oppose those policies.

Less noticed, however, is the fact that they have a backup plan to use if all of the above measures fail them. They are passing laws that allow themselves to cancel the results of elections in their states if their candidates don’t win. The very state legislatures intended in the Constitution to help guarantee democracy are, as they were in the days of slavery and Jim Crow, used to cancel democracy.

A look at the recent past serves as prologue to where GOP state legislators are going today.

The New York Times on Sunday noted in a special report that at least 357 sitting Republicans in closely contested battleground states have used the power of their positions to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The 357 did this despite there having been no evidence of election fraud in their states.

The motivation was not always loyalty to Trump, who pushed the lie that the election was stolen. They were also aiming to get rid of new features of election practice introduced during the pandemic, including vote by mail, use of drop boxes, and other reforms. Those reforms were allowing the election of too many progressives, in their view. In any case, the idea that the election was stolen and that the small-d democratic reforms enacted in the pandemic must be ended is accepted now by the vast majority of Republican legislators in all the states.

The false stories about rigged elections and fraud motivated them to pass new laws making it more difficult to vote and easier to insert themselves into the process of vote counting by appointing the people responsible for conducting those counts. Their next move was and continues to be passing laws that allow them to become the final arbiter of election results.

Problem faced by the fascists

The problem faced by the fascist lawmakers in the GOP is that they do not yet have all the support they need from governors and secretaries of state. They require that backing in order to carry out their criminal overthrow of the Constitution. They expect that this problem will be solved if their hand-picked candidates for those offices win in the current 2022 election cycle.

They are twisting the meaning of a clause in the Constitution which gives state legislative bodies the responsibility to establish “the times, places and manner of holding elections” into meaning that they have the power to determine who is actually elected.

Donald Trump, of course, is cheering them on in case he decides to run again in 2024. He has admitted that he is backing candidates all over the country who want state legislators to be able to name electors. The threat to democracy by the GOP state legislators goes well beyond Trump, however, and can be with us for a long time if they are not stopped in the 2022 elections underway now.

One area of concern is the need to stop those among the 357 GOP legislators who are now running for higher office under the pledge that they will carry out and even increase the undemocratic laws they support.

Republican state senator Doug Mastriano from Pennsylvania is running for governor of the state. He was the initiator, months before the 2020 election, of a push for an “Election Integrity Commission” which studied election law and came up with the repressive measures now used across the country. He is promising, if he wins in November, to make everyone in the state register to vote all over again, and to back GOP legislators if they decide to overturn a presidential election.

Mark Finchem, a GOP state representative in Arizona, has pushed a theory of “election decertification,” the idea that an election can be decertified after it happens. He is a candidate for secretary of state in Arizona.

Where the fascistic crop of Republican state legislators are focusing their 2022 election efforts is in states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Nevada, and Georgia. In those states secretaries of state, and sometimes governors, acted to block their attack on democracy in 2020.

Again, with past being prologue, it serves to remember what happened January 2, 2021, four days before the House of Representatives was scheduled to meet to carry out its ceremonial duty of certifying the Electoral College votes in favor of Joe Biden. The House Committee examining the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol tells us that on Jan. 2, Trump led a Zoom call with more than 300 GOP state legislators. He pushed for them to change the certified results they had already sent to Congress, pointing to the dubious clause in the Constitution mentioned earlier, a clause they are now reinterpreting into law in their states.

Trump was saying that state legislators, not the courts or Congress, were the key to dismantling democracy in America.

Today, huge numbers of GOP state legislators are acting on that, using what they call the independent state legislators theory, which asserts that state legislatures hold absolute and exclusive power over presidential elections, including the appointment of electors to the Electoral College. The theory has never been affirmed by any court and is rejected by most legal scholars. Wherever it is accepted, or becomes law, it would be an unprecedented cancellation of democracy.

Thus far the fascist GOP state legislators who are taking away so many rights in their states have made their mark on the electoral process by radically changing voting procedures. A total of 54 new laws have been passed since the 2020 election that include restrictions on voting, not just placing limits on mail voting and drop boxes, but registration, the number of polling precincts and where they are located, no accommodation for rural voters, no leeway for delayed mail, outlawing provision of snacks and water (!) to voters standing for hours in long lines, etc.

Texas is one state where a new law gives state legislators the power to reverse the popular vote in presidential elections. When the law was first drafted and circulated it was mistakenly titled “Overturning Elections.” That error was corrected in time for the second draft.

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. John Wojcik es editor en jefe de People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

People’s World, May 23, 2022,