Governor Ron DeSantis laid out his top legislative priorities on Tuesday, issuing his State of the State address to mark the opening of the 2022 session.
Flanked by GOP leaders, House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson, DeSantis opened the 2022 Legislative Session highlighting Florida as the “freest state” in the country and touting it as the last bastion of freedom in a world that continues to be plagued by pandemic-related lockdowns.
“Together we have made Florida the freest state in these United States,” DeSantis opened to a cacophony of cheers. While so many around the country have consigned the people’s rights to the graveyard, Florida has stood as freedom’s vanguard. 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. Florida has become the escape hatch for those chafing under authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions.”
The Governor continued, throwing shade at Dr. Anthony Fauci and the use of “pandemic politics” while noting the fallout that COVID-19 brought forth in the Sunshine State.
“These unprecedented policies have been as ineffective as they have been destructive — they are grounded more in blind adherence to Faucian declarations, than they are in the constitutional traditions that are the foundation of free nations.
Florida is a free state. We reject the biomedical security state that curtails liberty, ruins livelihoods and divides society. And we will protect the rights of individuals to live their lives free from the yolk of restrictions and mandates,” DeSantis continued before looking ahead to 2022. “Florida has stood strong as the rock of freedom. And upon this rock we must build Florida’s future.”
Turning his attention to his legislative agenda, DeSantis quickly outlined his $99.7 billion budget — which includes a $15 billion reserve. DeSantis said the fiscal budget will help Florida face challenges brought on by the pandemic and continue to promote the state’s strong economy, which DeSantis chalked up to the state choosing to let Floridians live freely.
“Freedom works. Our economy is the envy of the nation. And the state is well-prepared to withstand future economic turmoil,” DeSantis said.
The 2024 presidential frontrunner also addressed rising gas prices, proposing a $1 billion gas tax holiday that he says will help alleviate the burden at the pump.
“If Washington, DC won’t change course then we have a responsibility to step up on behalf of Floridians,” he asserted.
DeSantis, however, wasted little time getting into the “meat and potatoes”, issuing a blueprint on how the lawmakers could build upon the conservative foundation his administration and Republican-led legislature have laid since 2018. Outlining his robust agenda for the upcoming 60-day legislative cycle, DeSantis called on officials to prop up pillars built last legislative session, which includes continuing to combat critical race theory and maintaining Florida’s status as a “law and order” state.
Discussing education, DeSantis said he would continue to empower parents when it comes to their kids’ education by rejecting CRT and opposing the cutting of Bright Futures scholarships.
“Florida has enacted a Parents’ Bill of Rights and we reject the notion that parents shouldn’t have a say in what their kids learn in school. Indeed, Florida law should provide parents with the right to review the curriculum used in their children’s schools. We should provide parents with recourse so that state standards are enforced, such as Florida’s prohibition on infusing subjects with critical race theory in our classrooms,” DeSantis said, issuing a challenge to the legislature.
He remarked that he would not support tuition increases at Florida’s colleges and universities and wanted the legislature to increase teacher pay by approving $1,000 bonuses for the second year in a row.
Likewise, DeSantis doubled down on his commitment to Florida’s finest, urging the legislature to re-up bonuses for police, fire and EMTs, while also increasing officer pay and boosting bonuses for those who protect Florida.
“Serving in law enforcement is a noble calling and we will not allow our officers to be smeared by reckless politicians and corporate media,” DeSantis said. “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.”
DeSantis then addressed the border crisis, promising that Florida will not “bear the burden” of the federal
government’s “lawless open border policies.”
“As a state we cannot be a party to what is effectively a massive human smuggling operation run by the federal government. Companies who are facilitating the movement of illegal aliens from the southern border to Florida should be held accountable, including by paying restitution to the state for all the costs they are imposing on our communities. I am also requesting funds so that when the feds dump illegal aliens in Florida, the state can re-route them to states that have sanctuary policies.
Notably, DeSantis promised to also safeguard the state’s election process by establishing a “voting integrity unit” to oversee elections.
“To ensure that elections are conducted in accordance with the rule of law, I have proposed an election integrity unit whose sole focus will be the enforcement of Florida’s election laws. This will facilitate the faithful enforcement of election laws and will provide Floridians with the confidence that their vote will count,” DeSantis said.
While the bulk of the speech centered around what DeSantis hoped to get across the finish line in 2022, the highlight of the State of the State address was a heartwarming moment for First Lady Casey DeSantis, who is being treated for breast cancer. After lauding his wife’s many accomplishments, DeSantis vowed that 2022 would be the year she will be cancer free.
“On behalf of our family, I want to personally thank everyone who has sent prayers and well-wishes for her recovery from breast cancer. Casey is strong, resilient, and has a husband and three kids who love her dearly. 2022 is the year she will be cancer free!” he proclaimed to a standing ovation.
Despite Republicans largely praising the State of the State address, Democrats challenged the governor’s to-do list, arguing their vision is better for Floridians. In a video, titled “Florida Senate Democrats Lead,” Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, along with her Democratic colleagues, painted their priorities as a better way to navigate the ongoing pandemic.
“Republicans have been running the show for 20 years, and where has it gotten us? Out-of-touch politics focused on culture wars instead of real issues facing real Floridians,” Book said.
Others, like Senator Jason Pizzo, questioned DeSantis’ leadership, arguing that Florida deserves a governor that promotes both “freedom and fairness.”
“Twenty-one million Floridians deserve strong leadership that promotes freedom and fairness. The GOP agenda takes it away from them,” Pizzo chimed in.
To view the full State of the State address, see below.
Governor DeSantis delivers the State of the State to a joint session of the Florida Legislature. https://t.co/6K81w1C2Uq
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 11, 2022
To view the Democrats entire response, see below.