TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida legislature is planning to gather for a special session on Israel.
Special Session C is set for Nov. 6-9, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo wrote in a memo.
Gov. Ron DeSantis appears to be following through on his promise to levy state sanctions against Iran, whom Israel’s allies fear may get involved in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“I can confirm that the strongest sanctions against Iran by any state in the nation, as proposed by Governor DeSantis, will be part of an upcoming special session,” DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern said.
Florida already has sanctions against companies that directly do business with Iran and six other “countries of concern,” including Cuba, China and Russia. A news release from the governor’s office stated legislators will increase sanctions “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.”
The federal government has imposed restrictions on Iran since 1979. President Joe Biden has repeatedly warned the country’s leaders to stay out of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Iran backs the Hezbollah militant group, which has spent the last week exchanging gunfire with Israel at its border with Lebanon. Iranian diplomat Mehdi Hosseini Matin told reporters Friday that Iran’s “first priority is stopping the war, not escalation,” but Israel’s allies are keeping a close eye on the regime and its proxies.
Democratic House Leader Fentrice Driskell questioned whether DeSantis’ motives for the special session were political.
“This looks like yet another case of Ron DeSantis using the Legislature to try to help his failing presidential campaign,” Driskell said in a news release. “We will be watching closely to make sure Floridians’ tax dollars aren’t wasted trying to impress out of state GOP primary voters.”
Florida Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (D-Orlando) responded to DeSantis’ announcement on social media, calling the proposed session a waste of taxpayer funds.
“As a first generation Iranian-American, I despise the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Eskamani said. “I also oppose DeSantis wasting Floridian taxpayer money for his failing Presidential bid.”
Eskamani questioned “what Iranian businesses DeSantis Administration has relationships with that requires sanctions,” citing existing federal restrictions on the regime.
“As a State Legislature, we should be focused on issues like property insurance, rising cost of rent, and funding for our educators,” Eskamani said. “This isn’t it.”
Redfern reiterated “Florida’s continued support for Israel,” saying the governor was looking forward to working with the legislature.
Florida spent $4 million on a single flight from Tel Aviv to Tampa International Airport, Florida Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie told NewsNation on Monday. DeSantis appeared before a group of reporters to greet the 270 evacuees on the tarmac.
Since then, Florida has deployed multiple planes of medical supplies and other aid to Israel.
In addition to levying sanctions against Iran and “formally (expressing) support for the State of Israel,” the special session will also address Hurricane Idalia relief, property insurance costs, and funding for “students with unique abilities,” according to Passidomo’s memo.
The next regularly-scheduled legislative session begins in January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.