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red meat

Florida’s Legislature Has Outdone Itself This Time

Lawmakers voted to ban lab meat and keep teenagers working in heat waves, rather than tackle the state’s collapsing insurance market.

Ron DeSantis stands at a podium reading "Moving Florida Forward."
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis holds a press conference in 2023.

Florida is in the midst of a historic crisis. Thanks to devastating climate-fueled hurricanes over the last several years, the average cost of home insurance in the state is now more than triple the national average—and three times what Floridians themselves paid in 2018. Naturally, Florida’s Republican-controlled government is taking action: to ban types of meat that aren’t for sale.

Last week, Florida’s legislature passed a wide-ranging bill to ban the sale of lab-grown, or cultivated, meat products, making the sale or cultivation of such items a second-degree misdemeanor. It’s the kind of culture-war red meat that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who will now sign the bill, has made his specialty. “We are going to have meat in Florida,” he said while supporting the legislation in recent weeks. “We are not going to do that fake meat. Like that doesn’t work.”

The state’s insurance market doesn’t work either: Companies have fled in droves following a series of billion-dollar disasters. But that’s not a problem lawmakers managed to solve as the legislative session wound to a close on Friday.

It’s worth emphasizing just how theoretical a concern so-called fake meat is for the Sunshine State. Created from real animal cells, cultivated meat products are biologically meat but made without animals, typically via fermentation. Though two California-based companies have now gotten approval from federal regulators to sell cultivated meat products, these products have never been widely available and aren’t for sale at all at the moment; prior sales have mostly been for limited-run menu items at high-priced restaurants in major cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Growing animal-free meat remains an expensive and technically difficult process, owing to the high cost of certain feedstocks needed to cultivate cells as well as the challenge of mimicking the fat and muscle formations that animals create through movement. Widespread commercialization could be years or potentially decades away. That’s all to say that “fake meat” poses no threat to the agricultural industry policymakers vowed to defend in supporting the ban.

Rising property insurance rates, meanwhile, might be Florida’s most pressing pocketbook issue. Lawmakers did pass a handful of reform measures to deal with the state’s mounting property insurance crisis this session. Those include a temporary pause on taxes and fees on flood and property insurance premiums, moving policies for second homes away from the state’s beleaguered public insurer onto the private market, and matching grants to homeowners who fortify their homes against storms. Yet GOP lawmakers have consistently blocked attempts by Democrats to pass more comprehensive policies.

Rising insurance rates aren’t the only way climate change is affecting Florida, though. It’s also getting hotter. So while Republicans put Band-Aids on their state’s insurance crisis, they also took the time to ensure that workers struggling to pay skyrocketing rents and insurance premiums aren’t extended luxuries like a bottle of water or a sit in the shade: Following the example set last year by Texas Republicans, Florida’s GOP also pushed forward a measure this session to curtail the power of local governments to mandate that employers offer workers rest, shade, and water breaks on especially hot days. The same bill prevents city and county governments from raising their minimum wage above the state or federal level.

Thanks to the GOP, as well, teenagers will now join the ranks of those toiling in the hot sun for little pay. That’s because lawmakers passed another bill on Friday allowing employees over the age of 16 to work more than 30 hours a week so long as they get approval from a parent, guardian, or school superintendent. It further specifies that there are no limits on the hours that teens the same age can work so long as they’re homeschooled or attend classes virtually. Unlike older workers, though, underage teens working more than eight hours a day are entitled to one 30-minute break every four hours. That might come in handy for teens who’ll now be able to work in roofing and residential construction, provided that work is on structures that are six feet tall or shorter.

Incarcerated Floridians face even more dire conditions. Lawmakers refused to even hear a bill to guarantee ventilation, along with adequate meal time and health products, in the state’s prison, where 75 percent of housing is not air conditioned.

Florida is becoming a much harder place to live as temperatures rise. In the name of building a conservative paradise, the state’s Republicans—neglecting real economic issues to prosecute culture wars and legalize child labor—are doing everything in their power to make it hell on earth.