Former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis was sworn in as Florida's new governor on Tuesday, as Republicans begin their third decade dominating the state's Capitol.
On a mild, sunny midwinter day at the Old Capitol in Tallahassee, Ronald Dion DeSantis placed his left hand on the Bible, raised his right hand, and repeated the 63-word oath of office as Florida’s 46th governor. Drawing on his naval career during his 16-minute address, DeSantis promised he would not be a “rudderless vessel.”
“My compass will be the principles reflected in the constitutional oath I have just taken, and for which Americans have given their lives,” said the new Governor. These principles endure not because they are partisan – they aren’t; they endure because they are right.”
The new Governor spent much of his speech outlining his first-term agenda, which he says will include action to save Florida’s waterways.
“We will fight toxic blue-green algae, we will fight discharges from Lake Okeechobee, we will fight red tide,” said DeSantis. “We will fight for our fishermen, we will fight for our beaches, we will fight to restore our Everglades and we will never ever quit, we won’t be cowed and we won’t let the foot-draggers stand in our way.”
As governor DeSantis continues Republican control at the Statehouse, which emphasizes tax cuts, the growth of school voucher programs, and a deep skepticism about expanding the state's health care safety net. He pointed to current problems within the health care system.
“The escalating cost of medical care, prescription drugs, and health insurance has wreaked havoc on family budgets, priced many out of the market entirely, and has put significant stress on our state budget. The current system is riddled with perverse incentives, intrudes on the doctor-patient relationship and is mired in bureaucracy and red tape. The people of Florida deserve relief.”
However, DeSantis offered no proposals or ideas on health care during his address. Nor did he lay out his plan for education, other than to advocate for parental choice.
“One size does not fit all. No family should be denied the opportunity for their child to succeed due to insufficient income or to living in the wrong zip code,” DeSantis said. “And this opportunity must extend to every Floridian regardless of race, color or creed.”
Elsewhere, the new Governor pledged to stand with the communities in the Panhandle that were leveled by Hurricane Michael in October, and support those in the military and first responders. And he reiterated his desire to lead with purpose and conviction.
“So let there be no misunderstanding: as governor, I will lead with purpose and conviction on behalf of the people of Florida,” said DeSantis. “If the Legislature engages in wasteful spending, I will veto it; if a local official is neglectful of required duties, I will remove the official. If our environment is threatened, I will move to protect it.”
DeSantis succeeds Gov. Rick Scott, who was termed out and then elected as Florida’s junior U.S. Senator in November.
Senator, your laser-like focus on improving Florida’s economy has meant so much in the lives of so many in our state,” DeSantis said. You are leaving a strong foundation from which we here today can build. I know you will be a champion for Florida in the U.S. Senate.”
DeSantis will get a chance to remake the seven-member Supreme Court, with three left-leaning justices retiring this week as required by law. He told the inaugural gathering that while the judiciary is important, it must be limited.
“It is a self-evident truth that in our constitutional system, courts lack the authority to legislate, but for far too long Florida has seen judges expand their power beyond proper constitutional bounds and substitute legislative will for dispassionate legal judgment. Judicial activism ends, right here and right now,” said the new Governor.
At 40 years of age, Gen-Xer DeSantis is the fourth youngest governor in Florida history and the youngest in more than a century. The youngest was Marcellus Stearns, who was 34 when he took office in 1874. Then it’s 36-year-old Park Trammell in 1913, and William Sherman Jennings, who was 37 in 1901.
Also taking their oaths of office were Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez; Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Attorney General Ashley Moody.