DeSantis draws contrast with federal government and Democratic-led states in State of the State address

UniqueThis 48 Tue at 1:37 PM

(CNN)Painting himself and his state as the antidote to closed schools, government mandates and Big Tech overreach, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday delivered an election-year State of the State speech that emphasized the deepening divide between Republican and Democratic leadership during the pandemic.

DeSantis opened his remarks by declaring Florida "the freest state in these United States." He then laid out a legislative agenda ready-made for the culture wars that have lately dominated the political arena, touching on critical race theory in schools, vaccine mandates, voting laws, abortion and police funding.

The Republican leader, often mentioned as a potential presidential contender for his party in 2024, invited comparisons between Florida and states run by Democrats, and he levied sharp criticisms at the federal government's handling of the Covid-19 crisis without mentioning President Joe Biden by name.

Nor did DeSantis utter the words "coronavirus," "pandemic" or "vaccines," even as the state faces another wave of cases and rising hospitalizations of unvaccinated individuals.

"Florida has become the escape hatch for those chafing under authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions," said DeSantis, who spoke for more than a half hour in a packed legislative chamber where masks were largely eschewed.

His State of the State kicks off the 23rd legislative session in Florida, where Republicans control all the levers of power. From drawing new legislative and congressional boundaries to passing a budget and weighing new abortion restrictions, Republicans will decide how far to push Florida to the right.

The session comes at a key moment in the Florida electoral cycle. DeSantis is up for reelection in November, and three leading Democrats have emerged to challenge the Republican incumbent and stall his political aspirations: US Rep. Charlie Crist, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and state Sen. Annette Taddeo.

Fried called DeSantis' speech "performative political theater," while Crist accused DeSantis of "polishing his radical resume to prepare to run for president." Taddeo said DeSantis' remarks were "aimed at primary voters in other states while completely ignoring the real issues facing Floridians."

The legislative session in many ways will demonstrate the degree to which DeSantis has consolidated power in Tallahassee.

In past election years, Republicans had typically avoided protracted fights over controversial issues for fear of alienating moderate voters or energizing the Democratic base.

But DeSantis has often eschewed conventional political wisdom in his ascent and has embraced divisive issues, much to the delight of his supporters. He rose to prominence nationally for easing pandemic restrictions in Florida before most states, and he stood by his decisions to reopen as coronavirus cases surged and the death toll climbed in his state.

On Tuesday, DeSantis touted one of those decisions, opening schools by the fall of 2020, as an early example of when he took heat for acting against the advice of public health experts. More recently, Democratic leaders, including Biden, have acknowledged the importance of keeping kids in the classroom and the toll of virtual instruction.

"We were right and they were wrong," DeSantis said.

To date, Florida has reported more than 62,000 deaths and the state is experiencing a record number of reported cases, partially attributed to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

If DeSantis gets his way, Republicans will face the country's hot button political fights head on and keep up with other hard-charging conservative leaders, like Texas Gov. Greg Abott and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem — who, like DeSantis, are expected to consider presidential bids someday.

At the top of his agenda is giving parents the ability to sue schools if they spot Critical Race Theory in their child's class work. DeSantis' administration had already banned Critical Race Theory in schools last summer and Florida educators have maintained it wasn't part of their instruction. Following DeSantis' lead, Republican lawmakers have filed legislation that would ban training or instruction that says any individual is inherently racist or that privilege or oppression can be determined by a person's race or sex.

And as Biden traveled to Georgia to push for Congress to act on voting rights, DeSantis said Florida would expand efforts to find voter fraud and restrict mail-in ballots to "those who actually request them before each individual election."

Amid continued pressure from conservative voters to acknowledge former President Donald Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, DeSantis has proposed a new investigative unit to enforce election laws here. The size of the proposed force, 52 full-time positions, is larger than many Florida cities' homicide units.

DeSantis called Democratic pushes for voting rights "Orwellian doublespeak" while attacking ballot harvesting and taxpayer funding of elections.

DeSantis urged the legislature to further extend Second Amendment rights in Florida, already one of the most friendly states to firearm owners, but he didn't elaborate -- though in December he told gun-rights activists that he would sign constitutional carry legislation if it arrived on his desk. Abbott signed a constitutional carry law, which allows anyone to have a firearm without a permit, last year.

DeSantis also signaled his support for lawmakers to restrict abortion in Florida as the US Supreme Court considers the fate of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

In the hour before the governor spoke, Republican state lawmakers unveiled for the first time a bill that would ban abortion after 15 weeks, setting the stage for a heated fight in the coming weeks over the future of women's health and abortion access.


U.S. adds just 194,000 jobs in September; Annual yard sale funds woman's random acts of kindness
0 comments
An investigation into the timeline of the events which led to the spill is underway.
0 comments
As India's brutal second coronavirus wave ravaged the country this spring, Ankit Srivastava went from hospital to hospital, trying to find help for his ailing mother.
0 comments
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Friday warned President Joe Biden he should not expect cooperation on raising the debt ceiling again, a day after he voted with Democrats to overcome a&h...
0 comments
Seven Senate Republicans defied former President Donald Trump by voting to convict him for inciting an insurrection after losing the 2020 election. But eight months later, they're largely respondin...
0 comments
The best Dyson air purifier deals will help you grab a bargain on models that usually boast a notoriously premium price.
0 comments
With these common air purifier myths debunked, you’ll have a better understanding of how they work to remove airborne particles.
0 comments
Apparently, HBO's drunk robot show is filming another run of episodes. Here's everything we know.
0 comments
Kanye West got no VIP treatment at the airport.
0 comments
MLB announcer Jim Kaat is apologizing for making a slavery reference during Yoán Moncada's at-bat on Friday.
0 comments
R. Kelly victim Faith Rodgers says he was not railroaded and threatened her for coming out against him.
0 comments
MILAN -- With Italy’s vaccination campaign now advanced, the government has finally given the green light for nightclubs to reopen next week. It’s been a long wait.Glasses remain stacked upside dow...
0 comments
A peeling portrait of Polish piano composer Frederic Chopin purchased at a flea market hung modestly in a private house in Poland for almost three decades before an expert dated the painting to the...
0 comments
A new lava flow has belched out from the La Palma volcano, and it threatens to spread more destruction on the Atlantic Ocean island where molten rock streams have already engulfed over 1,000 buildings
0 comments
Learn which types of produce are in season this October and what to cook with them! You'll find plenty of healthy seasonal recipes here.
0 comments
The White House has informed the National Archives that it is not asserting executive privilege on an initial batch of documents related to the January 6 violence at the US Capitol, paving the way ...
0 comments
Why "Ted Lasso's" Rebecca and Keeley are among TV's best female friends of all-time, Apple TV's "Acapulco," and the skits we'd love to see as Kim Kardashian is set to host "Saturday Night Live."
0 comments
Gov. Inslee receives some choice words from a state trooper signing off ahead of Monday.
0 comments
Hooters has caved on the new pantie bottoms they wanted their girls to wear.
0 comments
The British spy who collected the "pee tape" intel speaks out publicly.
0 comments
The couple that's been all about each other are going to be man and wife!
0 comments
The veteran TV actor talks all the details about 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'You,' from making television during the pandemic to keeping his big return to 'Grey's' under wraps.
0 comments
The hotly anticipated return of the singer led to tears, personal confessions, and memes.
0 comments
Wondering what the benefits of yoga are? Read on to discover the answers.
0 comments
Perfect for every skill level and budget, these are the best microscopes for kids right now
0 comments
It went down 66 million years ago.
0 comments
Can we save Earth by bombing space?
0 comments
“As soon as this work project gets done.” “As soon as we get more settled in.” “As soon as I’m done planning this event.” “As soon as the kids are older.” How commonly do we offer these postponemen...
0 comments
Amid mounting pressure from players and advocacy groups, Major League Baseball will require teams to provide housing for minor league players starting in 2022, it was announced.
0 comments
Outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. can't help his Braves teammates on the field as he recovers from knee surgery, but he was on the field before Sunday's Game 2 of the NLCS, embracing his role as cheerlea...
0 comments
Garrett Temple and the New Orleans Pelicans, who've said that the upcoming "season is dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Ida," practiced Saturday at Nicholls State University in the torn town of...
0 comments
With head coach Kliff Kingsbury back home in Arizona after a positive COVID-19 test, the Cardinals kept their offense on track in a dominating 37-14 win over the Cleveland Browns on the road on Sun...
0 comments
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, who will undergo an MRI Monday for a right calf injury he suffered on his game-winning touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb Sunday in overtime against New England, believe...
0 comments
Danny "D.J." Rodriguez, who was arrested after he was identified in a HuffPost story, called himself a "f**king piece of s**t" during his interview with the FBI.
0 comments
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin said the GOP senator "never used to be this insane."
0 comments
Persistent concerns about Aduhelm, the disease's first new treatment in about 20 years, are curbing access more than four months after regulators approved it.
0 comments
Loading...