The honeymoon continues for Gov. Ron DeSantis.
After four weeks on the job, DeSantis continues to impress those on both sides of the political aisle.
“I think we have seen more leadership in just these several weeks then what we’ve seen in eight years of the previous administration,” said John Stemberger, a conservative policy advocate and president of the Florida Family Policy Council.
“Governor DeSantis understands that in order for Florida to be successful, it takes a collaborative effort,” Senate majority leader Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said Monday.
Passidomo says DeSantis’ commitment to his conservative values, while reaching out to address major issues facing the state, has earned him the respect of many Floridians.
“With three appointments to the Supreme Court, he’s brought balance back to the highest court in our state,” Passidomo said. “His focus on water quality, infrastructure, and education funding is important to our state’s economy and our state’s future. I look forward to working with him as my Senate colleagues and I begin reviewing his budget recommendations.”
DeSantis didn’t win much praise from Democrats when he appointed three conservative justices to the Florida Supreme Court, transforming the state’s high court into one of the most conservative in the nation.
Even with his transformation of the court, DeSantis has done so much in his first four weeks that he was bound to impress many political observers up and down the political spectrum. He addressed water quality and helped lead efforts to grant pardons to four young black men wrongly accused of raping a white woman in the 1940’s in Lake County — issues of importance to Democrats.
“It’s an interesting mixed bag,” said Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville. “At first glance, he’s proposing funding for priorities Democrats have advocated for years – such as the environment and public education.
But Gibson, who is more reserved in her judgment of DeSantis’ job performance than others in her party, says there are reminders that there are still philosophical differences between DeSantis and Democrats
“But then there’s the other side. The praise for his Supreme Court Justice appointments whose activism is welcome so long as that activism backs a conservative agenda,” added Sen. Gibson. “There’s his pick of a pro-voucher, pro-charters, and anti-public school education commissioner. And, most troubling, there’s his steadfast backing of Mary Mayhew, who left a verified trail of death and abuse in Maine, and a brief, 3-month stint in Washington under the Trump Administration, as his pick for Secretary of AHCA to oversee the most vulnerable citizens of Florida.”
One of the Democratic contenders for governor, who warned during the campaign that the state could not endure another four years of Republican leadership in Tallahassee, says she likes what she has seen so far from DeSantis.
“This is good,” former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham posted Friday on Twitter after DeSantis released his budget proposal for next year. “You are surprising a lot of people @RonDeSantisFL, including me. Florida and Floridians come before politics. Please keep it up.”
— Gwen Graham (@GwenGraham) February 1, 2019
“I think it’s been remarkable,” said Stemberger. “I think there’s a new sheriff in town. He’s no-nonsense. He’s principled. He is not ideological, but still doing the right thing.”
The fiscally conservative DeSantis proposed a $91.3 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year. It would be the biggest spending plan in state history. DeSantis’ proposal calls for more money for schools, the environment, and promises not to raid the state’s affordable housing trust fund in order to balance the budget, something Republican Legislatures have done in the past and which Democrats have criticized.
There are some areas of disagreement that have started to surface in recent days.
DeSantis has called on the Legislature to lift the ban on smoking medical marijuana, a requirement that legislators, particularly in the House, were adamant about last year. A court ruled the ban violates the constitutional amendment legalizing the use marijuana for medicinal purposes in Florida.
The Senate appears prepared to give the governor what he’s asking for, The House doesn’t seem to be as eager. Last week, House Speaker José Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, was critical of calls to lift the smoking ban.
“I’ve been in the smoke business my entire life and I’ve never heard anyone say it’s good for you,” said Oliva, a cigar company CEO. “ I think that’s a legitimate concern.”
The budget will likely be another area where differences will emerge between DeSantis and legislative leadership. His record spending proposal causes some concern for fiscally conservative lawmakers like Oliva.
“The Constitution requires a balanced budget, but we have an additional responsibility to respect Florida’s taxpayers by spending each dollar wisely,” Oliva said in a statement released Friday in response to the governor’s spending plan. “To meet this goal, the House will craft a budget that reduces per capita spending. I am confident Florida’s economic success will continue under Governor DeSantis as long as we keep taxes low and spending in check.”
Despite signs of differences developing, DeSantis’ honeymoon with Republican legislative leaders and Democrats appears to still be going strong four weeks following his inauguration, and it doesn’t appear it’s about to slow down or end anytime soon.