Bibbidy bobbidy BOO.
In March of 2023, the Walt Disney Company and Florida's bigoted governor managed to make the Rule Against Perpetuities trend on Twitter. For one shining moment, lawyers could trot out this relic of property law arcana to explain how Mickey Mouse had just spanked Ron DeSantis via a contract tied to the grandchildren of Britannia's newly coronated king. It was a glorious time!
It seems impossible to top that insanity, although Governor Ron DeSantis is laboring under the delusion that he can win the 2024 Republican presidential primary by finding ways to be even more odious than Donald Trump, so ... who knows? But, this week there were two funny developments in the ongoing fucktussle between DeSantis and The Mouse.
Yesterday Disney announced that it was scrapping plans to build a $1 billion office complex in Orlando that would have relocated some 2,000 employees from Southern California, including much of the Imagineering department, which designs theme park attractions. The New York Times, which first reported the story, suggests that the reversal is a result of some combination of two factors: 1) Florida's unstable business environment, where the governor threatens to build a state prison next to an amusement park as retribution for protected First Amendment speech he does not like; and 2) un-retired CEO Bob Iger's efforts to walk back changes made by interregnum CEO Bob Chapek.
DeSantis's press people responded with their usual grace and aplomb, snarking, "Given the company’s financial straits, falling market cap, and declining stock price, it is unsurprising that they would restructure their business operations and cancel unsuccessful ventures.”
So far, so hilarious. But there is also action this week on the legal front in the war launched by Ron DeSanctimonious in 2022 after Chapek had the nerve to offer tepid criticism of Florida's vile "Don't Say Gay" law banning mention of the existence of LGBTQ people in schools and launching a wave of censorship upon fear of litigation.
Last year, after the above mild rebuke, DeSantis noisily promised to get rid of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a 50-year-old charter entity which allowed the Magic Kingdom to operate as its own inland empire. But the Mouse heard the clomping of DeSantis's white waders a mile off — mostly because DeSantis spent a year shouting into every microphone in the state that he was definitely, 100 percent, yessireebob doing it to punish Disney for its First Amendment-protected speech. So on February 8, at a publicly announced and live-streamed meeting, the Reedy Creek Board signed that "Princess Contract" (our term, not theirs) devolving the bulk of its powers to the Walt Disney Company and depriving the anti-LGBTQ goons DeSantis was nominating the right to hold Belle and Ariel hostage if they didn't lift the skirt of every kid wearing a dress in Cinderella's castle to check for pumpkins.
On February 27, as promised, DeSantis signed HB 9B, dissolving the Reedy Creek District and replacing it with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD). And on March 8, a mere four weeks after it had been enacted, the CFTOD Board discovered the Princess Contract and hit the roof.
DeSantis vowed revenge, and got to work with the Legislature to show Mickey who's boss, making sure again to tell everyone he was retaliating against the company for its speech — SO SMRT! Meanwhile the CFTOD Board met on April 26 and voted to cancel the Princess Contract on grounds that it was unlegal, and an hour later Disney challenged HB 9B in federal court, claiming violations of the Contracts Clause, Due Process, and the First Amendment and citing the eleventy-million times that DeSantis and his legislative pals had helpfully admitted that they were taking revenge on Disney for politically protected speech.
On May 1, the CFTOD Board filed its own suit against Disney seeking to get the Princess Contract thrown out, but in state court, because they're crafty like that. And then on May 5, DeSantis and the derp squad passed SB 1604 declaring the Princess Contract null and void — again, accompanied by vociferous affirmation that they really, truly were retaliating against the company for mean words about the governor and his hate laws.
On May 8, Disney amended its federal complaint to add a challenge to SB 1604. The next day, the CFTOD Board amended its state complaint ... sort of.
On May 9, CFTOD filed an amended complaint in this suit that only corrected its signature block. Despite Senate Bill 1604 being signed into law four days prior—the law giving CFTOD the precise relief it requests here—CFTOD added no mention of the law in its amended complaint.
That would be some ice cold lawsnark to cleanse the palate before the righteous smackdown to come in Disney's motion to dismiss the state complaint. Because, as Disney's very good lawyers pointed out, SB 1604 rendered the Princess Contract "void and unenforceable by unequivocal legislative fiat," or at least purported to, making the entire lawsuit moot:
That legislation renders Plaintiff’s complaint moot because it makes any order this Court could issue—in either party’s favor—legally irrelevant. If the Court rejects the board’s claims on their merits and agrees with Disney that the contracts complied with any procedural and substantive requirements of state law, the board would still be prohibited from complying with them under the new state statute. For the same reason, even if the Court found merit in the board’s objections to the contracts, any order to that effect would be pointless because the contracts would already be void under the new state statute. In short, any declaration about the contracts’ enforceability, voidness, or validity—either way—would be an advisory opinion with no real-world consequence. Trial courts in Florida are forbidden from issuing advisory opinions, and this case should be dismissed.
In plain English, there's nothing left for the court to decide, because the CFTOD's lawyers were too stupid to amend their complaint to add SB 1604. And even if they do race into the courthouse this afternoon and fix that omission, under Florida's "principle of priority," state courts are required to refrain from adjudicating claims when the same issue and parties are before another tribunal. So even if Florida Ninth Judicial Circuit Judge Margaret Schreiber decides that the state case is somehow not moot thanks to DeSantis's dumb law, she's probably going to have to dismiss it because the issue is already pending before federal Judge Mark Walker in the Northern District of Florida. Well-played, Ron!
In summary and in conclusion, Ron DeSantis, the great white hope of the never Trump Republicans, has once again set a mousetrap and stuck his dick in it.
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Signs a boatload of bad bills, is bad.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has had a busy week, signing several bills that will further encrappen the state and make life miserable for LGBTQ folks, all in the hope that he'll prove himself authoritarian enough to appeal to Republican primary voters next year. He's been traveling across America's Dangling Appendage signing bills restricting people's freedom while claiming that Florida is the home of freedom, as long as you're a rightwing evangelical. (We think we'll just stop at "evangelical" from here on, since adding "Christian" to it just makes baby Jesus sad.)
Monday, DeSantis went to New College of Florida in Sarasota, the nice little liberal arts school he's ruining to turn into a rightwing indoctrination center, to sign several bills aimed at purifying Florida colleges and universities of "wokeness." It was his way of twisting the knife a bit, to remind the Liberal Elites who's in charge. Your fascists love that kind of symbolic humiliation shit, like how a former German corporal insisted in 1940 that France surrender in the same railroad car where the 1919 Armistice was signed.
But sometimes the vanquished just won't cooperate and admit they've been crushed, darn them. As Yr Wonkette noted Saturday, the official graduation speaker for New College's commencement was Dr. Scott Atlas, Donald Trump's Infect Everyone and Let God Sort 'Em Out COVID adviser, which was supposed to be a sick burn on the libs. Instead of going along, New College students scheduled their own commencement for tonight, and civil rights attorney Maya Wiley will deliver the keynote speech. It's as if those libs don't even know they've been owned. Sad!
We Don't Need No Education
As we say, DeSantis went to New College to ritually defile the corpse of his enemy, by signing bills that will further his goal of ramping up white grievance against higher education and nonexistent "liberal indoctrination." The biggie is Senate Bill 266, which defunds and prohibits "Diversity, Equity and Inclusion" (DEI) programs in higher education, because as we all know from racist memes, diversity is just code for white genocide. DeSantis kept a lid on the open racism and went for the respectable old dog whistle of "reverse racism" instead, saying,
"If you look at the way this has actually been implemented across the country, DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination. [...] And that has no place in our public institutions."
DeSantis proclaimed an end to diversity, crowing that "This bill says the whole experiment with DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida. We are eliminating the DEI programs."
In addition, the bill also cracks down further on academic freedom, specifying that general education classes — the core of classes for all undergrads — may not "distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics," and must not be based on
theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.
Lasting effects of Jim Crow? Certainly not in Florida! America is perfect in Florida! A history prof could teach about redlining, presumably, as long as they don't suggest that it created a structural imbalance in how wealth is accumulated in the US, because it's just pure coincidence that some people inherited homes in neighborhoods that had restrictive covenants, while other people never saw such generational wealth transfer. Discrimination vanished after the Fair Housing Act in 1968, because it's right in the name of the law, and how dare you suggest that the playing field was never level?
The bill also demands that gen ed classes of all kinds emphasize "Western Civilization," the best civilization there is, and requires that humanities classes include works from the "Western" canon, although studying inferior books from less important cultures will be tolerated for now at least.
Other bills DeSantis signed Monday included House Bill 931, which prohibits colleges from requiring a "political loyalty test" — i.e., from committing to diversity or anything like it. It also requires that all "public policy events" include equal time for opposing views, which as far as we can tell means that if you have a Pride event you have to invite Matt Walsh.
Finally, another measure will weaken tenure protections for professors, who need to be kept in line with the threat of being fired if they get too mouthy about any of this.
'Don't Say Gay' On Steroids, And Worse
To mark yesterday's International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which commemorates the World Health Organization's 1990 removal of LGBTQ+ identity from its list of "mental disorders" — Jesus H Christ on a Segway, it took that long! — DeSantis signed four anti-LGBTQ measures into law, ensuring that civil rights attorneys and activists will at least have a booming business for the next few years as they work to shut that shit down. Honestly, it's well past time that, instead of the Bugs Bunny gif, we instead force Florida back into the US of A and make it respect all its residents' rights.
Florida's state medical board last year adopted rules restricting gender-affirming care for trans youth. Yesterday, DeSantis made it a matter of law by signing Senate Bill 254, which prohibits puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery for minors (as we always point out, gender-affirming surgery is already extremely rare for patients under 18).
As indy journalist Erin Reed notes, this one's far worse than the usual run of such bills, because it also bans nurse practitioners from providing any gender-affirming meds, which won't just deny care to minors but to adults, since according to Florida healthcare provider SPEKTRUM Health, up to 80 percent of gender-affirming care in Florida is provided by NPs. As Reed reports, this has already led to appointments being cancelled and people losing access to medication.
The bill became effective as soon as DeSantis signed it, and the Human Rights Campaign reports that parents who are already suing to block the state medical board's anti-trans measures are seeking an emergency order to block SB 254 immediately. Other lawsuits are certain to follow.
The wording of the bill states that if a cisgender person is in the bathroom with a transgender person, an employee can tell the transgender person to leave. Should the transgender person not leave immediately for any reason, they will be charged with criminal trespass, which can carry sentences of up to 1 year in jail. [...]
While the provisions do not ban all bathroom usage, they cast a wide net over an alarming number of locations that would fall under definitions of “public” in the bill. This includes all buildings owned or leased by any governmental entity, educational institutions spanning from elementary schools to private colleges and universities, numerous hospitals owned by universities, many sports arenas, convention centers, city parks, beaches, airports, and more.
The bill makes no exceptions for trans folk who have updated their gender status on official documents like birth certificates or drivers licenses, instead defining sex as a matter of chromosomes and genitalia, which opens the hellish possibility that people trying to relieve themselves in a stall with a locked door will be subjected to freaking medical investigations. It's also a no-win situation, as Reed notes, since
Transgender people who are androgenous or pass as their gender identity will likely be challenged in the bathroom of their birth sex. Those trans people will then be forced to undergo the same investigation into their gender. In essence, it amounts to a ban on bathrooms for transgender people entirely.
HB 1521 goes into effect on July 1 — avoiding Pride month, isn't that cute? — by which time the lawsuits challenging it may have made headway, we hope. If it isn't already enjoined by then, get ready for lots of pushback, too, from cisgender folks who are challenged by toilet vigilantes. Sadly, in Florida, those cases may get the most media attention, because oh no, the "wrong" people are being harmed.
DeSantis also signed HB 1069, which expands the already awful "Don't Say Gay" law to 12th grade, and will prohibit trans students from asking to please be addressed by their correct pronouns, as well as encouraging even more vicious censorship of books in classrooms and school libraries. It too becomes effective July 1. A final member of the shitshow quartet, SB 1438, expands Florida's "obscenity" laws to include drag shows; it's almost certain to be used to attack Pride parades. Reed notes it has "already led to cancellations of pride events, including the Treasure Coast Pride Parade."
All of the bills DeSantis signed this week are blatantly unconstitutional, so this might be a good time to donate, if you can, to groups like Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign, or the ACLU of Florida. As the inevitable lawsuits against this fuckery ramp up, we'll bring you more information on how to help. As Yr Wonkette likes to point out when we discuss the climate crisis, things are pretty fucked, but we have the advantage of being on the right side. Americans do not want this crap, and there's a lot of mobilization to do — like the major federal lawsuit that's just been launched by Florida parents, PEN America, and Random House against school library censorship, about which we'll have more shortly.
Be an activist. Be an ally. Fight this shit with love and passion and smartassery (but don't mistake snark for activism, you in the back, there). This humbug shall not stand, man.
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Here's one for the good government nerds!
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass campaigned on an ambitious goal of reducing the city's homeless population by 17,000 people during her first year in office. She's pushed for an equally ambitious $1.3 billion in funding for programs that would address the problem. She's told President Joe Biden directly that finding shelter for the almost 40,000 people in Los Angeles who are currently unhoused would significantly reduce homelessness nationwide.
During a recent interview with NPR's Adrian Florido, Bsss explained, "[I] basically said, 'If your goal, Mr. President, is to reduce homelessness in the United States by 25 percent, you can literally meet that goal in our city for such a massive problem that I absolutely believe is an emergency."
So, to borrow from New York's former mayor Ed Koch, how is she doing?
Last December, Bass launched her Inside Safe program, which would humanely move homeless people off the streets and prevent "tent cities" and encampments from returning.
"People should not be left to live and die on the streets because the city isn’t giving them someplace to go," she said. "Under my administration, we are giving people safe places to move inside, and we will ensure people can stay inside and safe for good.”
Bass was not interested in "quick fixes." She understood that it's an ongoing process that requires a combination of patience, services, and permanent housing that will keep individuals safely housed. However, some much-needed fixes have occurred somewhat quickly.
A homeless encampment in Venice was cleared out and the individuals moved into actual, safe housing. This greatly reduced crime in the area, according to Los Angeles Police Department data.
"I feel totally safe now, walking in Venice, at any hour," Venice resident Kaaren Kitchel said. "I thought it was hopeless. I never expected to see the sidewalks here clear of tents."
Last week, Bass announced that homeless individuals had been relocated from an encampment in Beverly Grove. Tents had appeared along San Vicente Boulevard near Orlando Avenue, just south of the posh Beverly Center shopping mall. Residents in the area reported incidents of drug use and violence. Someone had apparently spotted a naked homeless woman, who appeared intoxicated, lying on an abandoned couch.
“They’re fighting at all hours of the day. They’re doing drugs. They’re selling drugs. It’s out of control,” one Beverly Grove resident, who declined to be identified, told KTLA. “We pay so much in property tax and so much in income tax, it is not fair for us to live like this.”
These encampments aren't good for anyone, especially those who are forced to live there. Several unhoused people told KTLA last month that law enforcement officials had told them to move to the area. If this is true, these cops were terrible real estate agents. (Both the Los Angeles Police Department and Sheriff’s Department have denied the allegation.)
The Inside Safe program moved many of the individuals within the encampment into temporary or long-term housing. A major part of the program has involved converting hotels and motels into housing for this purpose. But as Bass told Chuck Todd last year, "This is not coercing people. This is not ticketing people or incarcerating people. This is moving people from tents to hotels or motels."
Criminalizing homelessness doesn't work by itself, nor does allowing human beings to live in squalor on city streets. Bass is effectively threading the needle, producing results but with humane methods.
Permanent housing remains a significant challenge, because of the barriers erected to new tenants. Bass has requested that landlords accept tenants who have Section 8 housing vouchers. She said the city would also look into purchasing hotels or motels as a means of providing long-term housing.
"That's an example of where we need the city to be involved as a whole. Not just the elected officials," she said. "You can't expect just politicians to solve this problem. Everybody needs to have skin in the game."
Bass credits the Inside Safe program with taking more than 1,000 homeless people off the streets so far and transitioning them into safe housing. She has a long way to go to meet her stated goal, but more progress has occurred so far than in many other cities where there's a homeless crisis.
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