TALLAHASSEE — This time it’s not CRT or BLM, but a new acronym that Gov. Ron DeSantis has put in his crosshairs – ESG, or “environmental, social and governance” policies.
The latest installment of DeSantis’ fight against what he calls “woke” corporations involves an effort to prohibit state investments that use ESG ratings, which can include taking into account impacts of climate change.
The governor made an appearance in Tampa on Wednesday to roll out a plan that would have the State Board of Administration, which oversees investments, direct pension-fund managers against “using political factors when investing the state’s money.”
“We want them (fund managers) to invest the state’s money for the best interests of the beneficiaries of those funds, which is, again, the people that are retired cops and teachers and other public employees,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis has enlisted the aid of incoming House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, in the battle against ESG.
During Wednesday’s event at Harpoon Harry’s, Renner supported DeSantis’ call for action, saying “global elites” are “weaponizing American capitalism against us.”
Renner, who will become House speaker after the November elections, called the corporate practices a national-security issue and a pocketbook issue.
“What we have is these large corporations and banks that are pursuing a woke agenda that is artificially driving up our costs in energy,” Renner said.
ESG practices can involve considering a wide range of issues in investments, such as companies’ climate-change vulnerabilities; carbon emissions; product safety; supply-chain labor standards; privacy and data security; and executive compensation.
The organization DeSantis Watch, a joint project from Florida Watch and Progress Florida that is critical of the governor, issued a statement Wednesday that said DeSantis’ proposal does “the bidding of his large corporate donors and billionaire supporters.”
“Florida is ground zero for the climate crisis, but once again Ron DeSantis lacks the courage to take any real action to protect the livelihoods of the people of our state,” Natasha Sutherland of DeSantis Watch said.
DeSantis, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody, who are trustees of the State Board of Administration, are scheduled to meet during an Aug. 23 Cabinet meeting.
Bucking the feds
DeSantis’ efforts to weed out what he calls “woke gender ideology” from schools arrived at the doorstep of the federal government this week.
State Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, who was tapped by DeSantis as the state’s top education official this spring, came out swinging against new federal guidelines aimed at preventing discrimination against students based on such things as gender identity.
In a memo to school superintendents, school boards and other officials, Diaz wrote that new guidelines would “vastly expand the application” of Title IX.
Title IX is a federal law that was enacted more than 50 years ago to prohibit sex-based discrimination in educational institutions. The U.S. Department of Education last month released a proposal that would extend protections under the law to include schools’ “obligations not to discriminate based on sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Diaz in the Thursday letter told the school officials to ignore the guidelines, and warned against schools making certain accommodations for transgender students.
“Specifically, for example, nothing in these guidance documents requires you to give biological males who identify as female access to female bathrooms, locker rooms, or dorms; to assign biological males who identify as female to female rooms on school field trips; or to allow biological males who identify as female to compete on female sports teams,” Diaz wrote.
The education commissioner also took a shot at another state agency: the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which is headed by Nikki Fried, Florida’s only statewide-elected Democrat.
Diaz accused Fried’s agency of communicating with schools and “suggesting that they should comply” with U.S. Department of Agriculture guidance that similarly would interpret Title IX to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The federal agriculture department is involved in such things as school-lunch programs.
Fried on Friday told reporters that Diaz’s memo is “politicizing school-lunch programs and jeopardizing the safety and wellbeing” of Florida students.
“Let me be clear. Commissioner Manny Diaz and the Florida Department of Education have no oversight over the national school-lunch program. This is a federal law and federal guidelines,” Fried said. “If schools want the benefits of participating in federal programs, then they have to adhere to federal nondiscrimination policies.”
Fried, who also is running for governor this year, frequently clashes with DeSantis.
“I’m going to just come out and call this exactly what this is,” Fried said Friday. “It’s extremism. Politics getting in the way of feeding our children. I will not allow Gov. DeSantis or anyone to deny food to hungry kids for any reason. But especially not because they want to reserve the right to discriminate against them.”
Amid fears that a financial- ratings agency will downgrade numerous property- insurance companies, Florida regulators on Wednesday announced a stopgap plan to try to make sure homeowners can maintain coverage.
The plan involves the state’s Citizens Property Insurance Corp. acting as a financial backstop. Citizens would take on a reinsurance role to help make sure claims get paid if private insurers go insolvent.
The arrangement is designed to satisfy Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage-industry giants that require homes to be insured by financially sound companies.
Regulators have scrambled during the past week after the Demotech ratings agency indicated it could downgrade numerous Florida insurers to a level that would not meet Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac standards.
The plan announced Wednesday would use an exception in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac standards that applies when reinsurers take responsibility for paying claims if insurers go insolvent.
The state-backed Citizens, which already insures more than 900,000 homes, would temporarily provide such reinsurance for companies downgraded by Demotech.
STORY OF THE WEEK: Continuing to target what he calls “woke” corporations, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a plan to prohibit state investments that use “environmental, social and governance” ratings, which can include taking into account impacts of climate change.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I’ve been active for decades in this county, and I have never seen a contest that’s two significant figures such as these running against each other, and was necessitated by reapportionment.” – Mitch Ceasar, a former chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, on the race between Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, and Barbara Sharief, who are vying for a newly drawn Broward County Senate district.