DeSantis calls for sanctions, bans on Iranian businesses in Florida amid war in Israel

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday called for increased state sanctions against Iran for aiding Hamas in the deadly surprise attack in Israel over the weekend.

Appearing at a South Florida synagogue, DeSantis said he will ask lawmakers during the 2024 legislative session to further block Iranian business ties in Florida in a way "that will make a difference in terms of the substance, but I think symbolically, be also important." Iran already is on a list of nations where, for example, state investments are prohibited.

DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, said during the appearance at the Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside his proposal will reinforce a commitment against doing business with state sponsors of terrorism. While a detailed proposal was not issued, it could affect such things as the financial, construction, manufacturing and mining sectors, according to information released by his office.

"We're going to prohibit state and local governments from contracting with any company on this expanded sectors list, and we will not lift the sanctions until both the president and the U.S. Congress certify that Iran has stopped supporting international terrorism in seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction," DeSantis said.

But Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat whose parents immigrated from Iran, questioned the effectiveness of proposing enhanced state sanctions.

"I have never even heard of a state sanctioning a foreign country, and the United States has already placed heavy sanctions on Iran which have been pretty constant through several presidents," Eskamani said in a text message.

Florida already lists Iran as a "foreign country of concern," along with China, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria. Since 2008, Florida has prohibited state agencies and local governments from contracting for goods and services of more than $1 million with any business that has contracts with the Iranian government.

A state law passed this spring placed land-ownership restrictions on people from the foreign countries of concern.

The U.S. and Iran have not had a formal diplomatic relationship since 1979, when Iranians took over the American embassy, according to the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. has imposed numerous sanction programs that restrict access to the United States for companies that engage in certain commercial activities in Iran.

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, voiced support Tuesday for DeSantis’ proposal in a news release from the governor’s office.

"We must ensure we are doing everything within our authority as a state government to protect Floridians from this dangerous and corrupt regime," Passidomo said in a statement.

The 2024 session will start in January. Eskamani said resolutions have been filed for the session supporting the people of Israel. And she suggested Florida could expand "services and provide financial support for refugees."

DeSantis said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol and Attorney General Ashley Moody will issue a reminder that Florida bars actions supporting terrorism, including raising money for Hamas or other groups.