TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday delivered the last State of the State address of his first term as he seeks reelection and a possible 2024 presidential run.
The governor's speech had one over-arching theme of keeping Florida
"the freest state in these United States" — an idea he has touted throughout the pandemic.
DeSantis outlined a largely conservative agenda Tuesday, doubling down on efforts to fight federal COVID-related mandates, which he called "ineffective and destructive."
Proposed in his $99.7 billion budget were plans ranging from attempts to prevent schools and businesses from teaching critical race theory to keeping undocumented immigrants from settling in Florida.
One of the governor's major education proposals is to eliminate FSA testing and replace it with periodic progress monitoring to reduce the amount of time dedicated to testing and "leave more room for learning."
DeSantis also unveiled initiatives to approve an additional round of $1,000 bonuses for teachers, first responders and law enforcement officers throughout the state, as well as plans to increase salaries for those professions.
The governor championed his support for law enforcement during Tuesday's speech, making it clear that "Florida is a law and order state."
"We will not allow law enforcement to be defunded, bail to be eliminated, criminals to be prematurely released from prison or prosecutors to ignore the law," he said.
Part of this "law and order" agenda, DeSantis explained, includes fighting federal policies that may allow undocumented immigrants to live in Florida and maintaining the "integrity of our elections" through the controversial voting rights bill.
"Ballot harvesting has no place in Florida and we need to increase the penalties for those who do it. We also need to ensure that supervisors clean the voter rolls, that only citizens are registered to vote and that mail ballots only go to those who actually request them before each individual election," he said.
The governor outlined plans to continue funding environmental efforts to "safeguard Florida's natural resources, to improve water quality and to restore the Everglades."
He also made mention of providing support for an appropriate memorial in honor of the 98 people who died when a condo building collapsed in June in Surfside.
Over the next 60 days, Florida state lawmakers are set to consider nearly 3,500 bills during the 2022 legislative session, which kicked off Tuesday.