When it comes to governing the climate-doomed state of Florida, Republicans are nothing if not consistent: Do Only Harm. It's almost uncanny how focused the state party is on finding anything in Florida that works so that they can break it good and hard. Gov. Ron DeSantis' installation of an anti-vaxx pandemic conspiracy crank in the state's topmost public health office may be the most prominent example of the fervor Republicans have for their task, but the day-to-day grind of wrecking decent government wherever they find it can't always be that showy.
One of the latest examples comes from Orange County, which has been battling a housing crisis and responded earlier this year with new ordinances meant to protect renters from abusive gamesmanship by landlords. The county barred landlords from raising rents more than 5% without giving renters 60 days of written notice, and from discriminating against renters who use housing vouchers to help make their payments. That was the plan, anyway—until state Republican lawmakers got wind of it and wrote up a new state law wiping out the new ordinances along with similar locally passed renter protections throughout the state.
Why? The usual reason, of course: Florida Republicans are tight as ticks with real estate developers and with landlords, so all it took was a few whines in Republican ears for state lawmakers to jump in and put a stop to it.
WFTV9 brings us the story, a brief bit that touches on the obvious harm this is going to do. But what's most striking is the Sheer Gall Of These People: An ordinance saying landlords have to give two months’ notice before raising rent more than 5% is not exactly onerous. It's a piffling little protection, and Republican legislators responded by setting off a statewide bomb barring communities from passing any restrictions on how much landlords can boost rents.
There once was a time when Republicans claimed to be big proponents of local governance, and the more local, the better. The federal government should be in charge of nothing, they would say, and the state governments in charge of as little as possible. The rest would be worked out "close to the people," with individual communities and local sheriffs deciding what they wanted to tolerate in terms of "gun rights," or food safety guidelines, or take your pick.
That libertarian-ish funnel of rights never actually worked out, mind you, because while the idea of putting every bit of regulation in the hands of the lowest and most bribable official possible sounds positively utopian if you have lots of money for bribes, it turns out that big business hates the idea of not knowing what the damn laws are in every individual town they do business in, and pushed in the other direction. Every time local governments gained a bit of control, the Republican Party’s corporate donors would immediately hound lawmakers for the exact opposite, demanding the government take over such regulations at the highest level possible.
The result conservatism came up with is the obvious one: Conservatives declare the proper place for deciding what should be governed and how is whatever level of government they have the most power in, and whatever levels of government they do not have power in are communist, or out of touch, or woke.
What's wrong with Orange County, Florida, responding to a housing inflation crisis with a fairly trivial new requirement that you at least have to give your renters notice before jacking up rents by 10% or 20% or 50%? Nothing! Not a damn thing! It's more surprising that it wasn't already a law!
But when the entire Florida Republican Party is in the pocket of the real estate industry, all it takes is a poke to get the petty protection unraveled again. Repeat over and over, and you've got the current state of Florida. It sure would be nice to someday find out that all of this was because of brazen corruption in the statehouse, with suitcases full of money being handed out like candy on Halloween. Because if it's not that, then Florida Republicans have been sabotaging everything from state colleges to history lessons to major employers to pandemic responses to elections to housing because they're just that devoted to wrecking things.
It can't be incompetence; it's far too consistent. So what the hell is it?
Ron DeSantis is comically corrupt
Texas Republicans are being performatively evil again
Surprise: Authors of DeSantis-forced congressional maps revealed as (illegal) partisan operatives