TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. DeSantis delivered his last State of the State speech Tuesday— the fourth as governor— and last of his first term. He’ll seek reelection and a possible 2024 presidential run in his future endeavors.
DeSantis began his remarks talking about how Florida represented “freedom’s vanguard.” The governor also called Florida, “the freest state in the United States.”
“Florida has become the escape hatch for those chafing under authoritarian, arbitrary, and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions,” he said. “Florida is a free state.” In correlation to the statement, the session opened at the Florida Capitol without any COVID-19 protocols. The state reported 125,000 new cases Monday. COVID hospitalizations are down slightly and stand at 9,000 statewide.
The governor made a recommendation for a budget of $99.7 billion and has more than $15 billion in reserve, which is, “one of the largest surpluses in the history of the state.”
DeSantis brought mention to bringing more voting restrictions following last year’s bill that will lower the number of drop boxes.
“It is Orwellian doublespeak to invoke the concept of ‘voting rights’ to mean ballot harvesting, prohibiting voter ID and taxpayer funding of elections,” he said.
Florida law already bans harvesting and requires IDs. The governor would like to spend $6 million to create a law enforcement office that is dedicated to election fraud. DeSantis touted the 2020 presidential election went smoothly in Florida.
“We faced opposition — from hysterical media, from unions and the politicians they control. We even faced lawsuits aiming to close the schools, but we wouldn’t allow fear or politics to harm our kids. We were right and they were wrong,” he said.
DeSantis brought up a multitude of politicized topics such as critical race theory, saying that tax dollars, “should not be used to teach our kids to hate our country or to hate each other.” He also touched on what he described as “reckless” policies at the federal level, “We faced opposition — from hysterical media, from unions and the politicians they control. We even faced lawsuits aiming to close the schools, but we wouldn’t allow fear or politics to harm our kids. We were right and they were wrong,” he said.
In discussing his support of law enforcement, the governor stated that he rejects the defunding of the police.
“My proposals to increase pay for state law enforcement by up to 25% and to provide $5,000 signing bonuses to law enforcement personnel who either transfer to or begin their careers in Florida will spark a tidal wave of qualified professionals seeking employment at agencies throughout the state,” he said. “Let there be no doubt to those who wear the uniform: the state of Florida stands with you!”
The session will be the first day of the annual 60-day session. Lawmakers will need to pass the Florida budget, redraw political maps and look at the over 3,000 bills which have been filed ahead of the session.
Redistricting is a process that happens once in a decade.
Three major Democrats are seeking to challenge DeSantis this November — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, and state Sen. Annette Taddeo.