Current Florida Law is a Problem for DeSantis

Florida legislature quietly making preparations to change Florida law so he does not have to Resign as Governor to pave way for DeSantis Presidential/Vice-Presidential bid

by Dan M. Berger, Tghe Epoch Times, March 7, 2023

With the release of his book last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has begun his campaign for an office he hasn’t declared he’s seeking. It’s not officially a campaign. It’s called instead a book tour for “The Courage to be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival.”

DeSantis will make two book-tour stops this week in Iowa, important to presidential contenders with its early primary caucuses. He’s likely to stop by in New Hampshire, with its early primary, as well.

DeSantis has other pieces of a campaign in place. He meets with and gets checks from big donors. Meanwhile, his campaign staff has stayed in place, paid by the Republican Party.

Why hasn’t he declared for office? He’s said he’s first concerned with Florida’s legislative session, beginning March 7 and lasting until May 5.

There’s another reason, though. Florida law now requires him to resign as governor—in a second term he took the oath of office for just two months ago—if he runs for another office.

Florida lawmakers have gone back and forth on that law over the past two decades. They eased it for state or local officials considering a run for federal office in the late 2000s when then-Governor Charlie Crist sought the vice-presidential nomination in 2008.

But they changed it back in 2018, under then-Governor Rick Scott, having decided that easing it had led to costly special elections. The resign-to-run law was intended to avoid those.

If DeSantis resigned, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez would succeed to the office.

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No bill has yet been introduced to ease the law once again. But behind the scenes, lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature quietly acknowledge that a plan for that is coming together.

And both state House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo hinted after the November elections that they favor fixing the resign-to-run problem. Neither responded to emails from The Epoch Times asking for their current positions.

Legislators have kept mum on the subject.

The law, as written, is ambiguous, and any change might be billed as an effort to clarify it.

Florida Statute 99.012 (4)(a) states: “Any officer who qualifies for federal public office must resign from the office he or she presently holds if the terms, or any part thereof, run concurrently with each other.” The law goes on to state that resignation is irrevocable.

What needs to be clarified is when DeSantis would have to resign if the law isn’t changed. He’d have to submit his resignation “at least 10 days before the first day of qualifying for the office he or she intends to seek.”

It would be effective no later than the earlier of two dates—the date he would become president if elected, or the date his successor as governor would be required to take office.

That leaves wiggle room, a lot of it, political scientists say. For most offices, the qualifying deadline is a single deadline, says Susan MacManus, professor emeritus at the University of South Florida.

Epoch Times Photo

Floridians running for governor, as DeSantis did last year, or for federal offices such as Senate or Congress, had to qualify by June 17, 2022. Someone with a conflict would have had to resign 10 days before that.

But someone running for president first runs in a host of primaries in other states. MacManus agreed Florida’s law might not require DeSantis’s resignation until 10 days before he first qualifies for a primary.

Aubrey Jewett of the University of Central Florida said DeSantis could push the deadline even further if he argues that seeking a party’s nomination is not the same as running for “office.”

Under that scenario, Florida law wouldn’t require him to resign until he, assuming he won the Republican nomination, qualified for the November 2024 general election.

“There’s some ambiguity, if the law doesn’t change, when Governor DeSantis would be required to file his resignation,” Jewett said. “It’s confusing.”

Jon McGowan, a lawyer specializing in federal and state law, told The Associated Press the same thing. “There’s too much ambiguity.”

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The date of New Hampshire’s 2024 primary, traditionally and by state law the first in the nation, has yet to be established.

The national Democratic Party wants to oust the state from that position and shake up its primary schedule to get states with more minorities in sooner.

Still, New Hampshire is resisting, and the Republican party prefers the current status.

That primary has historically been early in February.

In 2020, it was held on Feb. 11, with a filing deadline on Nov. 15, 2019. So, assuming New Hampshire has the same qualifying period as in 2019, DeSantis would only have to resign 10 days before a date sometime in mid-November.

Republican voices raised in opposition have all been from outside the legislature—and all supporters of DeSantis’s rival for the nomination, former President Donald Trump.

Story continues . . . 


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