Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered his State of the State address to the Florida Legislature Tuesday, on day one of the 2020 regular session.
Lawmakers are getting an early start – January rather than March -- because it’s a presidential election year, and the Florida primary is set for March 17.
“For everything there is a season, and this is Florida’s season of opportunity,” said the governor. Speaking to the joint legislative session, the governor began by quoting the Book of Ecclesiastes -- and the Byrds.
“We have the chance to build on a strong foundation, the chance to face the challenges before us and the chance to leave a legacy of success that will benefit our people now and in the future, said DeSantis. “If we work together during our season of opportunity, we can ensure that Florida works for our fellow citizens.”
In 2020 – as it was in 2019 – education will be a main focus for DeSantis – and not all of it in the classroom.
“Traditional four-year universities aren’t the only way to acquire advanced knowledge or skills – and for many it is not the best way,” DeSantis said. “We have launched an initiative to make Florida the nation’s leader in workforce education by 2030 and, thanks to your support, we are off to a good start.
And the governor offered his plan for K-through-12 education, made up of three components.
“Recruiting and retaining great teachers; promoting educational choice and measuring results through accountability,” said the governor. “I am recommending we take a bold step of setting a minimum salary for public school teachers at $47,500, bringing Florida from the bottom half of states to number 2 in the nation.
Another major initiative from the administration is providing access to cheaper prescription drugs by importing them from Canada and other foreign markets.
“Same drug, just a much lower price,” DeSantis said. “This can only be done with federal approval and I’m happy to report that the Trump administration is moving forward with the applicable regulations. There is still a long way to go, but that we are even discussing this is a major development in this area and Florida has led the way.”
Also in the annual report to the Legislature, Gov. Ron DeSantis called for a new law to force girls to get their parents' permission to get an abortion, and a way to continue eliminating barriers when it comes to adopting children.
“It should be an exciting time — a new year, and a new decade; a chance for a fresher, bolder start. But is this what Gov. DeSantis is offering?” asked Senate Minority Leader Aubrey Gibson, delivering one of the two Democratic responses to the State of the State. She focused on the governor’s call for teacher raises, claiming not all teachers will share the wealth.
“[Teachers] know that the governor is leaving half of their colleagues out of proposed salary increases, despite years without any additional salary considerations,” Gibson contends. “Thousands of education support personnel know the governor’s plan is neither bold, nor fresh.”
DeSantis was also taken to task over Amendment 4, which restores convicted felons’ voting and other rights upon completion of their sentences.
“Since Amendment 4’s passage, the governor has done everything he can to undo the people’s will,” said Gibson. “And nothing in his speech today gave us any hope that he was going to change, and honor his commitment to uphold the Constitution.”
Elsewhere, Gibson said the governor’s plan to import prescription drugs from Canada would have little effect on prices; and when it comes to cleaning up the state’s waterways, she says DeSantis’ promises remain just that – promises.
“Toxic algae still threatens our wildlife and the tourism industry; if the governor’s going to clean up the environment it’s simple: start cleaning it,” Gibson said. “Attack the pollution at its source; reinstate the teeth in regulations, and punish the repeat bad actors.”
Meanwhile, backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to allow recreational marijuana use in Florida say the measure will not go on the ballot in November. The political committee Make It Legal Florida points to a “narrow timeline” for meeting petition-signature requirements.