February 24, 2024

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis served up acquainted themes in his sixth State of the State handle Tuesday with a watch towards presidential major voters, proclaiming Florida to be a conservative mannequin for the nation as extreme climate pummeled the Panhandle.

The handle got here initially of Florida’s 60-day legislative session and a couple of week earlier than Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

As he has carried out many instances previously, DeSantis declared Florida to be successful story that stands in stark distinction to the federal authorities and Democratic-run states and cities.

“My message is easy: Keep the course,” he mentioned. “The state of our state is powerful. Let’s maintain doing what works. Let’s proceed to make Florida the envy of the nation.”

DeSantis delivered the speech shortly after a twister warning for Tallahassee expired, and emergency crews responded to storm injury in Marianna and Decrease Grand Lagoon south of Panama Metropolis Seaside. He declared an emergency for 49 counties and vowed the state “will deal with no matter fallout there’s from these harmful tornadoes.”

State workplace buildings in Tallahassee have been closed due to the climate, however DeSantis’ speech proceeded as scheduled.

The Republican governor’s marketing campaign is going through an uphill battle as DeSantis trails former President Donald Trump within the polls. Political analysts say he wants a powerful exhibiting in Iowa’s caucuses on Monday and might want to upstage former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Haley is contending to be the main Trump different. Haley and DeSantis will conflict in a CNN presidential debate Wednesday night time.

DeSantis touted acquainted coverage objects in his speech, together with increasing college selection applications, concentrating on college “variety, fairness and inclusion” initiatives, banning transgender athletes from women’ and girls’s sports activities and combatting what he known as “COVID authoritarianism.”

He took intention at President Joe Biden, slamming him for his method to unlawful immigration and the nation’s rising debt. He blasted Democratic-run states and cities, saying they’ve enacted “soft-on-crime” insurance policies and saddled their residents with excessive taxes.

“It isn’t stunning that we’ve got witnessed, and proceed to witness, an ideal migration of Individuals away from cities and states pursuing these failed insurance policies, with Florida serving as a refuge for freedom and sanity,” DeSantis mentioned.

Democrats blasted DeSantis as an “absentee” governor who has did not deal with skyrocketing property insurance coverage charges and different pocketbook points, whereas slicing off entry to abortion and pushing “extremist” positions.

“The Republican Legislature and DeSantis traded our freedoms, taxpayer {dollars} and fame as a state to advance one man’s political profession,” mentioned Rep. Fentrice Driskell, Democratic chief within the Florida Home. “Whereas that injury can’t be undone in a single day, we are able to change course and make higher decisions for Florida’s future.”

DeSantis is proposing a $114.4 billion price range for 2024, which incorporates $409 million in momentary tax and price reduction for property insurance coverage premiums, in addition to will increase in schooling, environmental and infrastructure spending. The 2024 price range advice is $4.6 billion lower than the present state price range, however features a $3 billion improve within the state reserves, bringing them as much as $16.3 billion.

Legislative leaders outlined their priorities in speeches. Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo mentioned she desires to broaden the well being care workforce and enhance medical care within the state. Her plan doesn’t embrace increasing Medicaid, which about 40 different states have chosen to do beneath former President Barack Obama’s Inexpensive Care Act.

“Medicaid growth shouldn’t be going to occur,” Passidomo mentioned. “It isn’t a fast repair. It isn’t a panacea. In reality, in the event you can’t truly schedule an appointment with a well being care supplier, Medicaid growth is nothing greater than a false authorities promise.”

Passidomo’s priorities additionally embrace a public college “deregulation” push that seeks to chop bureaucratic pink tape in schooling.

Florida Home Speaker Paul Renner known as for child-safety laws to manage social media use by youths, and age restriction guidelines to dam underage customers from accessing on-line pornography. Related legal guidelines in different states are being challenged within the courts.

“Name it a tradition struggle if you would like, however it’s one other battle to defend widespread sense in opposition to those that need to obliterate the excellence between maturity and childhood,” Renner mentioned. “It’s a battle we intend to win.”