Florida House passes measures to support Israel, secure Jewish institutions

Lawmakers pass bill to provide $45 million to safeguard Jewish community sites; Rep. Randy Fine warns ‘the fight is not just over there, but the fight is right here at home’

Rep. Randy Fine, Republican-Palm Bay, in the Knott Building at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida,  February 6, 2023. (Phil Sears/AP)
Rep. Randy Fine, Republican-Palm Bay, in the Knott Building at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida, February 6, 2023. (Phil Sears/AP)

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — The Florida House passed measures during a special session Tuesday to help secure Jewish institutions and other places that could be targets of hate crimes, express support for Israel and further sanction companies that do business in Iran.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to tout the measures as he campaigns for his party’s nomination for president. And though the bills were mostly symbolic, there was one lone attempt seeking lawmaker support for calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. That was angrily shot down by Democrats and Republicans alike.

“The fight is not just over there, but the fight is right here at home,” Rep. Randy Fine, the only Jewish Republican in the House, said as he introduced a resolution condemning Hamas and supporting Israel. “Every person that walks through a college campus or marches through the street saying, ‘Kill the Jews,’ is an extension of what we’re seeing over there.”

The resolution passed on a 103-3 vote.

War erupted when on October 7 Hamas attacked Israel, killing over 1,400 people, mostly civilians, during a murderous rampage, and taking hundreds of men, women and children as captives in the Gaza Strip. Israel has launched a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas and removing it from power in Gaza where the group has ruled since seizing control in 2007.

The House also passed a bill to provide $45 million in grants to secure Jewish schools and institutions, as well as other places that could be vulnerable to hate crimes that have spiked since the war started.

The House also voted to strengthen sanctions already in place against businesses that do business with Iranian companies, as well as measures to provide hurricane recovery money and boost money for developmentally disabled students.

The Senate will take up the bills on Wednesday.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Party of Florida Freedom Summit, in Kissimmee, Florida, November 4, 2023. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

The Legislature held the special session two months before its annual 60-day session as DeSantis campaigns in Iowa touting his support for Israel.

House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell said after the chamber adjourned that there’s really little more Florida can do to sanction Iran that the federal government isn’t already doing.

“But it got to be a feel-good moment on the floor for a priority (DeSantis) wanted, and so now DeSantis gets to stand on the debate stage tomorrow and say that the Legislature was tough on Iran,” she said. “It is ultimately all about DeSantis. Pretty much all of this could have waited until January.”

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