TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday declared Florida "the freest state in these United States" in his State of the State address.
What You Need To Know
- Gov. Ron DeSantis revealed his legislative agenda at State of the State address
- The governor also touted the state's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic
- DeSantis called for more pay bonuses for teachers and first responders
- Other proposals included an office to investigate voter fraud and a gas-tax suspension
"In Florida, we have protected the right of our citizens to earn a living, provided our businesses with the ability to prosper, fought back against unconstitutional federal mandates and ensured our kids have the opportunity to thrive," DeSantis said.
"Florida has become the escape hatch for those chafing under authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions."
DeSantis' speech began by trumpeting his administration's management of the COVID-19 pandemic and went on to outline his legislative agenda for 2022.
The governor said Florida rejects "the biomedical security state that curtails liberty, ruins livelihoods and divides society" and because of that, the state has a favorable budget outlook and has performed strong economically.
Among the 2022 legislative proposals, he called for was a $1 billion gas-tax holiday to help Floridians struggling because of higher gasoline costs.
A significant portion of DeSantis' speech addressed education issues. He described his decision to reopen schools and keep them open during the COVID pandemic one that put children first.
"We were right, and they (opponents to open schools) were wrong," DeSantis said. "And millions of families in Florida are better for it."
Moving forward, DeSantis proposed replacing the FSA test with periodic progress monitoring. The change will "lead to meaningful feedback for parents and teachers and will reduce the amount of time dedicated to testing, leaving more time for learning," DeSantis said.
He also proposed additional increases in teacher pay and the approval of $1,000 bonuses for educators for a second year in a row.
In terms of higher education, DeSantis said he would not support any tuition increases at Florida’s colleges and universities or a reduction in Bright Futures scholarships.
Among the other proposals DeSantis made were:
- Banning critical race theory in schools
- Safeguarding Florida’s natural resources, improving water quality and restoring the Everglades
- Full funding of law enforcement, increasing pay for state law enforcement by up to 25% and providing $5,000 signing bonuses to law enforcement personnel who either transfer to or begin their careers in Florida
- Restitution to Florida for all the costs imposed on the state's communities by companies and the federal government for facilitating the movement of illegal aliens from the southern border to the state
- An "election integrity unit" aimed at enforcement of Florida’s election laws
- $1,000 bonuses for first responders
The proposal to create a new office to investigate voter fraud is expected to cost about $6 million, despite the fact that DeSantis had lauded the state's 2020 election for how clean it was.
Lawmakers are only required to do two things during this legislative session — pass a state budget for the year and redraw political maps, which is done every 10 years.
Ahead of the State of the State address, State Sen. Linda Stewart (D-District 13, Orlando) shared her expectations for the state's legislative session.
“He (DeSantis) has to review the entire budget, and he has to make the suggestions to where he thinks the money should be spent,” Stewart said. “We don’t always follow the governor’s budget. We listen to it but we don’t always follow, and neither does the house.”
To her point, the legislature will have the task of determining how state funds will be spent and other legislative agendas, but the governor has veto power.
More than 3,000 bills have been filed so far for the session, only a fraction of which will become law. Legislative leaders have not announced their own detailed agendas, but with Democrats outnumbered, the next two months will likely be dominated by the governor's priorities.
Read Gov. Ron DeSantis' full State of the State Address here: