OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is not one to accuse of being soft on crime.
This week the popular Republican governor signed HB95, the controlled substances bill, into law and vowed to send drug dealers to prison, Fox 13 reported.
“Revising the elements that constitute the capital offense of murder in the first degree; revising the elements that constitute the felony offense of murder in the third degree; prohibiting specified activities involving controlled substances within 1,000 feet of additional specified facilities; providing criminal penalties; renaming what the violation of specified offenses are known as from ‘trafficking in fentanyl’ to ‘trafficking in dangerous fentanyl or fentanyl analogs’; increasing the mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for specified offenses, etc,” a description of the law reads.
What it means is that the penalties for dealing fentanyl or methamphetamine give prosecutors the option of charging drug dealers with first-degree murder if an overdose leads to death. If convicted the drug dealer could face life in prison or the death penalty.
“Someone dealing fentanyl is murdering people, and they are going to go to prison in the state of Florida,” the governor said.
The law also enhances penalties for the sale of controlled substances within 1,000 feet of a substance abuse treatment facility and increases the mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking fentanyl from three years to seven years for 4-14 grams, and from 15 to 20 years for 14-28 grams.
The opioid crisis has touched millions of families and children across the US. In Florida, overdose deaths related to fentanyl have risen by 63% since 2019.
The dangerous man-made drug is 50 to 300 times more potent than morphine. Many overdose victims don’t even realize they’ve taken it.
“We have folks buying pills stamped M30 to look like oxycodone. It’s not oxycodone,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. “It’s got binders in it and fentanyl. So they’re taking the oxycodone, right? They’re getting an overdose of fentanyl.”
“I truly believe that if you are intentionally giving someone something that you know is going to kill them, it is a murder,” Mike Itani, whose son died of a fentanyl overdose, said.
This week while speaking at Seminole State College in Sanford, DeSantis reiterated his promise that Florida’s taxpayers will not take on Walt Disney World’s debt when and if the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) dissolves in 2023.
The popular Republican governor suggested that some legislative measures may be put in place to prevent that from happening.
“I can tell you this, that debt will not end up going to any of these local governments. It’s not going to go to the state government, either. It’s going to absolutely be dealt with by (Disney and other businesses) that are currently in that district,” DeSantis said.
“We’re going to have a proposal to kind of make sure that that’s clear,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis wants the state to assume control of the Disney-dominated self-governing body, which has run the Orlando-area theme parks for over 50 years.
“More likely that the state will simply assume control and make sure that we’re able to impose the law and make sure we’re collecting the taxes,” DeSantis said.
Democrats in the state have attacked DeSantis for going after Disney, claiming the dissolution of RCID would force county taxpayers to foot the bill for more than $1 billion in bond debt.
DeSantis’ plan alleviates that concern.
“First of all, it’d be a cash cow for them if they had Disney,” DeSantis said, referring to the counties.
“But I’m worried that they would use that as a pretext to raise taxes on people when that’s what they would want to do anyway and then try to blame Reedy Creek, so we’re not going to give them that opportunity,” he added.