By Bill Pan
Florida’s Republican-led Legislature has approved a bill clarifying that Gov. Ron DeSantis may run for president in 2024 while keeping his current position.
In a party-line vote of 76-34 on Friday, the Florida House approved an amended version of SB 7050, which includes a provision that explicitly exempts anyone running for president or vice president from the existing “resign-to-run” requirements.
The bill has already passed Florida Senate by a vote of 28-12 and now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.
“Any person seeking the office of president or vice president of the United States is not subject to the requirements of [Florida election law], which govern candidate qualifying, specifically those which require the submission of certain documents, full and public disclosures of financial interests, petition signatures, or the payment of filing fees,” the bill reads. “This section shall take effect upon this act becoming a law.”
The bill was quietly filed on March 30 as what’s known as a “shell bill,” immediately prompting much speculation that it was the placeholder for what would change the Sunshine State’s “resign-to-run” law to clear the way for DeSantis’ widely expected 2024 White House bid.
The entirety of the bill’s text at the time it was first published stated that the Legislature “intends to revise laws relating to elections” and that the revisions would “take effect July 1, 2023.”
Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, who told reporters in late March that the Republicans were still researching whether or not a resign-to-run change would be in that bill, said Tuesday that the amendment doesn’t change but instead clarifies current law.
The amendment “makes no changes to the process for nominating candidates for president and vice president, which is governed by political parties, not Florida law,” Passidomo said in a statement. “It simply adds clarity to current law and eliminates any ambiguity.”
“Under our law, the timeline for resigning is entirely based on qualifying. Presidential and vice presidential candidates do not have to qualify. Presidential and vice presidential nominees (other than write-in candidates) are decided by their respective political parties at national conventions,” she explained. “Currently, they do not have to complete a candidate’s oath, pay a qualifying fee, fill out a financial disclosure, or turn in any of the other qualifying documentation and paperwork required of candidates for other offices.”
“I don’t want a candidate to have any problems because of a perceived ambiguity in our laws,” Passidomo added.
Democrats overwhelmingly opposed the move, accusing their Republican colleagues of doing the bidding of DeSantis.
“This is not just a clarification. This is an intentional move to curry favor,” Shevrin Jones, a Florida senator, said Thursday during a debate. “If it’s just for clarification, why do we have to clarify it now?”
“Let’s be honest, you’re not doing it because it’s the right thing to do. You’re doing it because you can,” Jones argued.
DeSantis has yet to officially enter the 2024 presidential race, although he has been visiting early primary states as part of a tour to promote his book “The Courage to Be Free.” Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump has enjoyed the advantage of declaring early—picking up dozens of endorsements, including from many Florida Republicans.
Earlier this month, the Trump campaign issued a memo claiming that DeSantis “used taxpayer dollars to travel around the country for his 2024 presidential campaign, including to the early voting states of Iowa and Nevada.”
“Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to campaign full-time for president during the Florida legislative session while collecting a salary and having the taxpayers pick up the costs for his travel and security. It’s a massive flip-flop from his position in 2018,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement. “To make matters worse, DeSantis’ upcoming taxpayer-funded campaign travel appears to put him at odds with Florida’s existing ‘Resign to Run’ law.”