Florida’s 2024 legislative session reached its grim conclusion this week, with nearly 180 new laws going into effect, many of them with sweeping, pernicious and—with right-wing majorities remaining in place—nearly irreversible changes to the state’s quality of life. The result is a Florida that is less safe for workers, less culturally rich, more corrupt and less free, a sun-drenched place where children can work long hours and local governments can’t protect workers from record heat, where police are allowed to police their own behavior, where the ocean is reclaiming cities while the state erases “climate change” from its statutes. And for reasons known only to the hayseed legislature that proposed it, residents are now allowed to impulsively shoot black bears.

Nature has failed to cooperate with Tallahassee’s designs. Although climate change terminology has now been officially scrubbed from Florida’s policy books, South Florida is still recovering from a record, monsoon-like series of rainstorms in June, and terrifying Hurricane Beryl — the earliest Atlantic Category 5 in recorded history — serves as a spooky opening act for the storms to come.

These phenomena are not, as Gov. Ron DeSantis’s flacks have argued, mere inconveniences of the rainy season. They are harbingers of the hotter, more dangerous world we are simultaneously creating and inheriting. No one is asking DeSantis or his legislative allies to change the weather—the Capitol is no place for miracles—but their denial, their reactiveness, their obsession with culture-war catnip at the expense of solving real problems, like the state’s failed private insurance market, is costing us all.

It’s fitting that as record heat ravaged parts of the state this summer, lawmakers moved quickly to block local governments from imposing heat exposure protections on private employers. After all, why would anyone in a humid, agricultural state like Florida want to do such a thing? That?

The erosion of home rule — that is, the idea that local communities should have the power to govern themselves, a concept that helped modernize Florida — is a long-standing project of the state’s right-wing government, which has sought to expand its size and reach into ideologically diverse counties and cities. This centralization of power is the connective tissue in many of the most damaging pieces of legislation that became law this week or will become law later this year.

So the heat protection ban, for example, worked for lawmakers on two levels: craven corporate loyalty (read: political donations) and the stripping away of local autonomy. They liked it so much they did it twice: Another new law prohibits cities from using their influence through government procurement to encourage private companies to set higher minimum wages, a ban that costs real people real money.

But don’t worry: As parents struggling to make ends meet in the heat, their teenage children can now work longer hours to support the household, echoing the ambitions of Florida’s Gilded Age elected officials.

Perhaps some local communities want citizen police review boards and others do not. These are the brakes on a free society. Now it doesn’t matter: only the police can organize such boards and select their members.

Local ethics watchdogs are also being neutralized. That law, which DeSantis recently signed, doesn’t go into effect until October, so government officials have some leeway to plan their fantastical crimes.

Public school teachers must now teach students about the “rising threat” of communism, while Florida’s elected leaders meddle with the criminally inclined, insurrectionist Donald Trump. And teachers at so-called Classical Academies — charter schools with a decidedly conservative slant — can receive watered-down certifications to qualify as Florida teachers.

Chaplains can now volunteer to serve students in public schools, an eye-rolling idea that has unsurprisingly garnered praise from the fine folks at The Satanic Temple who are eager to offer their services to help Florida’s youth. “That’s not a religion,” King DeSantis shouted, perhaps unaware of the temple’s rather ecclesiastical IRS status.

DeSantis, of course, co-authored this sad chapter with his legislative allies. Where lawmakers failed to maximize their cruelty, DeSantis rushed to fill the void. His first-of-its-kind, across-the-board veto of arts and culture funding—about $32 million in all—feels like a piece with his ongoing struggle with the modern world. Oddly enough, DeSantis sees sex everywhere: in books, art, movies, parties. A false fear that some small portion of this arts funding might have gone to a prurient enterprise apparently motivated DeSantis’ veto, he said.

Florida is hotter, meaner, and more dangerous. It costs more money than ever to live here, and Florida offers fewer resources than ever to those who don’t have them. Florida’s diversity, once a great strength, is now abandoned as a tool of Marxism or Faucism or techno-fascist vaccinism or some other ism. Florida’s elected leaders once built coalitions; now they build walls and dig divisions between us. This once-New South state is now Deep South to the core, Mississippi with more coast, Louisiana with less grit.

That’s where Florida’s leaders are willing to let one crushing legislative session after another stand. For the people of Florida, it’s a tragedy. For the politicians, mission accomplished.

Nate Monroe is a columnist for the USA Today Network in Florida. Follow him on Twitter @NateMonroeTUSend him an email at [email protected].