Gov. Ron DeSantis Delivers State of the State Address, Ushering in a New Era
Jordan Kirkland - March 5th, 2019
Tuesday marked a new beginning for Florida's political scene, as legislators and officials arrived in Tallahassee to start the 60-day legislative session.
But before debating began on any contentious bill, Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered his State of the State Address, calling for environmental protections, lower taxes, and sweeping changes to education.
"Less than 60 days, my administration has taken bold action to address issues that Floridians care about," DeSantis said in front of a joint session of lawmakers.
During his 30-minute speech, DeSantis highlighted the accomplishments his administration has made thus far, including securing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid to help Hurricane Michael recover, addressing environment problems. removing embattled Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for his handling of the Parkland high school shootings, appointing three conservative Supreme Court justices, and giving posthumous pardons to four black men who were wrongfully accused.
But DeSantis told legislators that "this is just the beginning,"
"Be bold. Be bold in championing economic opportunity, be bold in protecting Florida's environment, be bold in improving education, be bold in defending the safety of our communities. Be bold, because while perfection is not attainable, if we aim high, we can achieve excellence," DeSantis told lawmakers gathered in the chamber.
DeSantis laid out a very conservative agenda during his address: lower taxes, expand school choice and reduce regulations on businesses.
The governor also signaled a change during his speech, suggesting that he is willing to spend more to improve Florida. He called for $2.5 billion in spending over the next four years to clean up waterways fouled with blue-green algae.
He also said he wanted to compensate teachers for their hard work and dedication, saying he wants to use over $400 million to give teachers bonuses of nearly $10,000 and using $10 million to forgive the student loans of 1,700 prospective teachers
DeSantis also addressed private schools, claiming he wanted to eliminate a waiting list for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, a school voucher program that allows parents to send their children to private schools. DeSantis has been an advocate of school choice, and his address proves that he will look to boost private school enrollment.
While the majority of the chamber got behind DeSantis' bold vision, there are those that believed his address pandered to his Republican base.
Terrie Rizzo, Florida Democratic Party Chair, believes that DeSantis "sounded more like a protege of Donald Trump." than a leader of Florida.
“Ron DeSantis showed his true colors today as a far right politician who is determined to destroy our public schools, demonize our immigrant communities, and do nothing to expand access to health care. On education and immigration, DeSantis sounded more like a protege of Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos than a governor who will put Florida first," Rizzo said in a statement sent to RoundTable Politics.
"On health care, DeSantis made clear he will do nothing to expand access to care for the hundreds of thousands of Floridians who lack insurance. As session begins, I want to make clear that Florida Democrats will never be afraid to stand up for our values and we will forcefully oppose DeSantis’ efforts to divide our state and impose a Betsy Devos-inspired voucher scheme,"
Even with the criticism, DeSantis has a "bold vision" for Florida, and many on both sides of the political aisle are eager to see what direction he takes Florida. If his first 60 days are an indication of things to come, Florida has a lot to look forward to in the future.
I’m looking forward to working with the Legislature this session to champion economic opportunity, protect Florida’s environment, improve education and defend the safety of our communities. #BoldVisionpic.twitter.com/3jqXSFu1lX