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With his 2024 effort over, DeSantis tweaks ‘the whole ‘book ban’ thing’

When it comes to targeting books in Florida libraries, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis took a step in the right direction but it was a very modest big step.


It was in 2022 when Florida became the first of several red states to make it easier for local residents to challenge books in school libraries they didn’t like. It was in 2024, however, when the Sunshine State also became the first of these states to roll back the controversial policy — at least in part.

Politico reported that, under a new law signed yesterday by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida residents who don’t have children in local public schools “will have significantly fewer chances to challenge books in local K-12 libraries.”

Meant to curb what lawmakers described as a “logistical nightmare” facing school districts flooded with requests to remove books, the policy marks an admission from Republican leaders that last year’s expansions to book challenge laws may have gone too far after national backlash from free speech groups and even some conservatives.

Let’s take a minute to revisit our earlier coverage and review how we arrived at this point.

It’s not exactly a secret that DeSantis believed his presidential campaign would benefit if he ran as a far-right culture warrior. With this dubious assumption in mind, the Florida Republican spent months crusading on social issues, imposing an abortion ban, targeting Disney, ending state diversity programs, signing the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” policy, and obsessively saying the word “woke” at every available opportunity.

But that’s really just a sampling of a broader agenda. The GOP governor also backed a policy that made it easier for Floridians to challenge books in school libraries, leading to what some referred to as the state’s “book ban” policy.

DeSantis wasn’t altogether pleased with the rhetorical framing — when launching his presidential bid, the Republican called “the whole ‘book ban’ thing” a “hoax” — but as a New York Times report explained last year, there may not have been a statewide ban of a book, but individual school districts and libraries removed a great many books thanks to legislation the governor signed.

We now know, of course, that DeSantis’ national strategy fell far short, and his presidential candidacy collapsed shortly after losing the Iowa caucuses by 30 points. And as a result, the governor is now free to start undoing some of what he did.

While he hasn’t admitted that his approach was misguided, DeSantis conceded in February that under the policy he approved two years ago, bad-faith actors could “hijack the process.” He specifically pointed to a hypothetical Floridian objecting to 100 books despite not having a child in a local school. “No, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” DeSantis said.

Now, under the state’s newly signed law, such a scenario will no longer possible.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the revised policy still isn’t great: Floridians who don’t have a child in a local school will still be able to go after books they don’t like, but they’ll be limited to one title per month. What’s more, those with children in public schools can be far more prolific in going after titles.

In other words, when it comes to book objections, DeSantis took a step in the right direction, but it wasn’t an especially big step.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.