TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Tuesday will mark the beginning of a new era in Florida when incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez are sworn into office.
- Ron DeSantis, Jeanette Nunez to be sworn into office Tuesday
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Other elected officials, including Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, will also take their oaths.
Topping the list, however, will be the Florida Supreme Court.
The Florida Supreme Court
At the very moment DeSantis is sworn in at 11 a.m. Tuesday, the terms of Supreme Court Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince, and R. Fred Lewis will end.
Florida’s mandatory retirement law is pushing the trio off the bench due to their ages.
DeSantis told reporters Monday that he plans to name the first of three replacements by Wednesday, his first full day after taking office.
While the Florida Capitol and the Florida Supreme Court are only separated by a one-way three-lane road, politically, the distance can be measured in miles.
“The judiciary (is) constantly usurping more legislative powers over the years,” DeSantis told a crowd of supporters during a pre-inauguration luncheon Monday. “Well, that ends tomorrow and we will fix that.”
During the campaign to become Governor, DeSantis often criticized the court for what he said was behavior beyond the jurisdiction of the court, and “legislating from the bench.”
He said then he would find replacement jurists who “respect” the executive and legislative branches of government.
DeSantis will pick the replacements from a list of 11 names, narrowed down by the Judicial Nominating Commission — a group of appointees picked by outgoing Gov. Rick Scott.
The list of 11 has drawn ire itself.
Justice Peggy Quince’s departure means there will not be an African American on the bench for the first time in 36 years. None of the 11 finalists are black.
“I don’t know what went into the decision,” DeSantis said Monday. “I interviewed all 11 one-on-one, I did not know their race before I met them. I met with them and they were all impressive bunch of folks. I always want to promote people from a wide variety of walks of life.”
DeSantis said he also plans to make an announcement in the first week or two regarding medical marijuana.
Despite a controversial move by Gov. Rick Scott, DeSantis made no commitment to prohibiting smokeable medical marijuana.
“I think at the end of the day, when people speak on these things we want to implement their will, I don’t think that’s been done fully,” DeSantis said. “So, we’re going to be taking action with medical marijuana, as I said in the campaign. It was a 72 percent issue, and I have different minds from different people on how effective it’ll be, and those debates are before the vote happens, and once the vote happens, you’ve got to move on so we’ll implement and take action within a short amount of time.”
DeSantis said Monday he also does not plan to step in to block the rollout Tuesday of voter approved Amendment Four.
The measure restores voting rights to certain convicted felons who have completed their sentences. DeSantis did caution, however, his belief that the Legislature would have to clarify language as to which convicted felons would qualify to vote.
“I never said it should be delayed, what I said was it that it would probably require implementing legislation,” DeSantis said. “The people spoke on it. It needs to be implemented, but it needs to be implemented in the way the people intended.”
Storm Recovery & the Environment
Despite November’s tight election results showcasing a divided state, DeSantis said he wants to focus on nonpartisan issues, which includes Hurricane Michael recovery efforts and the environment.
“I think people will really appreciate it; it doesn’t fall neatly on party line,s and after when you have these tough elections, it’s good to do some things that are not red versus blue all of the time, so we’ll be doing that,” DeSantis said.
Coming into office DeSantis will likely rely on the experience of Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez.
As a former state lawmaker and healthcare executive, Nunez says she believes she has a lot to bring to the table.
During an exclusive one-on-one interview with Spectrum News’ Greg Angel, Nunez said healthcare, infrastructure, and the economy will be three focus areas.
“(We're) getting involed in things that are important in our future as Florida grows, particularly in transportation and infrastructure, in making sure that we’re looking at things from a broad perspective, and making sure I use my background in legislative process to ensure our agenda is successful in the session that starts in March,” Nunez said.
One agenda item is finding unity in a time of polar politicization.
“We want to be pushing forward our agenda for every Floridian to benefit all of our residents so that’s something we’re going to be passionate about as we go forward, and champion issues related to the environment and education,” Nunez said. “We’re going to be listening to the unique perspective and diverse opinions from all walks of life, so I have no doubt the governor and I will be busy championing causes important to all Floridians.”