Florida lawmakers will hold a special session in November on a series of issues, including bolstering state sanctions against Iran and providing additional assistance to people after Hurricane Idalia.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, issued a proclamation late Friday afternoon for the special session, which is scheduled from Nov. 6 through Nov. 9.
The proclamation came after Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office said earlier Friday a special session would be held to increase sanctions against Iran, as Republican leaders seek to show support for Israel during the war with Hamas.
But the proclamation goes well beyond the sanctions issue. For example, it calls for providing additional aid to people recovering from Hurricane Idalia, including aid to the agriculture industry.
Also, it calls for taking steps to increase the number of students with disabilities served in a school-voucher program known as the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities.
Other issues slated for the session include expressing support for Israel and providing money to help improve security at facilities, such as Jewish Day schools, considered at “high risk for violent attacks or hate crimes.”
DeSantis, who is seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, called Oct. 10 for increased state sanctions against Iran, which supports Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that began the war Oct. 7 by attacking Israel.
Florida already lists Iran as a “foreign country of concern,” along with China, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria. Since 2008, Florida has prohibited state agencies and local governments from contracting for goods and services of more than $1 million with any business that has contracts with the Iranian government.
In addition, a state law passed this spring placed land-ownership restrictions on people from Iran and the other foreign countries of concern. Also, the federal government has imposed numerous sanctions on Iran.
Lawmakers are expected during the special session to make changes related to what are known as “scrutinized companies” that have business interests in Iran.
DeSantis’ office said in a news release that will involve increasing “sanctions against the Iranian regime by broadening the industries on Florida’s scrutinized companies list and strengthening Florida’s prohibitions against investing in companies which are doing business with states that sponsor terror.”
“While our laws already have strong sanctions against regimes that support terrorism, a conflict of this scale certainly warrants a fresh look at further steps we can take to strengthen existing sanctions against the Islamic Republican (sic) of Iran and other state and corporate sponsors of terror,” Passidomo wrote in a memo to senators Friday. “We can, and we must, do everything within our authority as a state government to support Israel and condemn terror, hatred, and violence.”
Before the proclamation was issued, House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, issued a statement Friday tying the planned special session to DeSantis’ presidential bid.
“This looks like yet another case of Ron DeSantis using the Legislature to try to help his failing presidential campaign,” Driskell said. “We will be watching closely to make sure Floridians’ tax dollars aren’t wasted trying to impress out-of-state GOP primary voters. DeSantis’ policy failures at home have left Floridians paying the most for homeowners insurance, auto insurance and rent in the country. I think Floridians would prefer their governor spend as much time addressing these pocketbook issues here as he spends on his ambitions.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers gathered Wednesday in the Capitol to show support for Israel.
“We know the Iranian regime funds Hamas and assists other terror groups,” Renner said at the event.
DeSantis also has taken other steps since the Hamas attack, including declaring a state of emergency that helped clear the way for Florida to help fly Americans back home.