DeSantis Outlines State Of The Sunshine State
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis helped open the annual legislative session with his State of the State Address. He reflected as much on the past year as he did his priorities for 2021.
“One year ago, COVID-19 had not yet been declared a global pandemic,” the governor began his remarks. He then touted his response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“We had scant knowledge of the virus; little ability to test for it, and no approved treatments,” DeSantis said. “Today, we have three safe and effective vaccines, great treatments like monoclonal antibodies, and the ability to conduct rapid diagnostic tests.”
As of the end of February, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of almost 31,000 Floridians.
“We sympathize with the many family members, who in many instances, were not even permitted to see their loved ones in person, either in the hospital or the nursing home,” said the governor. “So to honor those who have died with COVID and to recognize the toll the virus has taken on family members throughout our state, the state of Florida will be lowering flags to half-staff on Wednesday.”
A staunch opponent of lockdowns in the face of the pandemic, DeSantis told the joint session that Florida is in much better shape than other states because it's been open for business for the most part.
“All Floridians have a right to earn a living; and our citizens are employed at a higher rate than those in the nation as a whole,” said DeSantis. “Every job is essential. If you’re working hard to make a living we’ve got your back in the state of Florida.”
Other priorities from the governor: get tough on violent protests and an effort to rein in the influence of large technology companies. Those are drawing fire from Democrats, including Rep. Gary Farmer, who delivered one of two Democratic responses.
“The governor and Republican lawmakers have crafted legislation to muffle our people and restrict our speech,” Farmer said. “Instead of giving our health and economy the attention that they so desperately need. Can anything be more insensitive or tone-deaf? Well, as it turns out yes there can be.”
The governor and Republican-dominated legislature, says Farmer, are trying to convince Floridians that the GOP is the party of the people. But he adds their actions tell “a very different story.”
“Their legislation does nothing for the average working person; they don’t help Floridians weather the pandemic until the economy rebounds,” said Farmer. “They don’t put food on the table, or affordable health care within reach. They don’t better educate our kids or bring more accountability into the education system. And they certainly don’t help build a promising future.”
“So, how do we build Florida back stronger and better than before? I believe we can turn away from old ideas that do not work in 21st century Florida,” said State Sen. Bobby DuBose, who provided the second Democratic response.
Dubose contends that, instead of passing concrete legislation to help Floridians, Republicans are focusing on political distractions. He points to House Bill-1.
“The governor’s anti-protest bill that attacks our First Amendment rights,” DuBose said. “We’re worried about making voting harder here in Florida. And we’re confused that state leaders would focus their energy on social media companies and foreign countries, while Floridians are struggling.”
Meanwhile, CNN is reporting that DeSantis faces bipartisan criticism and a call for a federal investigation, after the state set up invitation-only Covid-19 vaccination clinics in at least two upscale communities.