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Gov. DeSantis to lay out agenda during Florida State of the State

Posted at 8:39 PM, Mar 04, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's daily calendar during his first two months has listed a "major announcement" a dizzying number of times. Now the question is whether he's saved new material for his State of the State address on Tuesday.

Since being sworn in Jan. 8, DeSantis has announced an ambitious strategy to address environmental issues, laid out a vision for education, and proposed a $91.3 billion budget. He also has demanded lawmakers make medical marijuana more accessible, suggested ways to lower health care costs, and pushed for a statewide grand jury to make sure school districts are complying with a new law passed after the Parkland high school shooting. Moreover, he also suspended several locally elected officials, including the Broward County sheriff criticized for the response to the shootings and elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach counties who had troubles during Florida's three statewide recounts.


So what's he have left for the State of the State?

"I think what you'll see tomorrow is more specifics, and specifically targeting some of the issues he's already highlighted," said Sen. Joe Gruters, who also chairs the Republican Party of Florida. "The guy's been absolutely on fire the last two months."

DeSantis' predecessor, Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, was almost singularly focused on job creation. DeSantis' speech will likely be more wide-ranging, outlining plans for the environment, education, government accountability, public safety and more.

The economy will be a large part of it. DeSantis clearly wants to keep building on Florida' recovery from the Great Recession.

"I'm very optimistic about the possibilities for our state," DeSantis recently said at a luncheon hosted by the Economic Club of Florida. "We're a state that's on the ascent. I think that we are mindful of how bad policy can undercut economic momentum and undercut opportunities for people, and so we are making sure that we're looking to see what's working and then plowing forward."

At least as the session starts, DeSantis, Republican Senate President Bill Galvano and Republican House Speaker Jose Oliva are predicting a harmonious relationship.

"I think the legislative session is going to be very good for us," DeSantis said. "I think we're going to have broad support in the Legislature for environmental support, for educational reforms and for doing things to be able to incentivize more businesses to come and locate to the state of Florida."

DeSantis has enjoyed high approval ratings since taking office, partly because he's mixed his conservative agenda with issues that cross party lines, like vowing to do more to fight algae blooms, red tide and rising sea levels while backing a ban on fracking.

"Part of it is it's just the right thing to do, because we've got to be good stewards of God's creation," DeSantis said about the environment. "But part of it is the water is not like just some tangential thing in Florida ... It really is a central piece of what Florida is. It's one of the reasons why Florida is a place people want to live; it's one of the reasons why people want to vacation here."

Democrats are in disagreement with him on other issues, like expanding voucher programs that send students to private schools at taxpayer expense and his push to address illegal immigration by supporting a ban on so-called sanctuary cities.

House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee said he's reserving judgment until he hears Tuesday's speech and how DeSantis' agenda plays out in the session. But he said he knows what he wants to see.

"Working families deserve a tax break. They've been the backbone of this tax system for so long, it's time that we give them a break. And I'm talking about a real tax break. I want to see state workers get an across the board pay raise, not just a bonus," he said. "I'd like to see our teachers get a pay raise across the board that reflects the national average. I would like to also see that the Panhandle is taken care of as it relates to their recover and rebuild effort" after Hurricane Michael.