Jan 9, 2024 - News

DeSantis brings stump speech home as Florida legislative session begins

Ron DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a campaign event at McDivot's Indoor Sports Pub this month in Grimes, Iowa. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis stepped away from the campaign trail Tuesday to kick off this year's legislative session with a speech that, at times, seemed aimed as much at voters in the Hawkeye State as those in Florida.

Why it matters: His address comes one week before the Iowa caucus, a potential make-or-break moment for his waning presidential ambitions. Much like a stump speech, he rattled off wins from sessions past.

Zoom in: DeSantis shied away from outlining specific priorities for this session; instead, he contrasted the state's success with what he sees as the nation's decline.

  • DeSantis praised Florida's education policies, applauding the conservative takeover of New College of Florida and the Legislature's effort to ban "Diversity, Equity and Inclusion." He also highlighted his administration's COVID policies and the state's abortion bans.
  • Issues like health care, addressed in speeches by state Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and state House Speaker Paul Renner, were notably absent from the governor's.
  • Many of DeSantis' forward-looking remarks referred to his proposed budget, which the state constitution required him to submit 30 days before the session opened.

What they're saying: "My message is simple: stay the course," DeSantis told lawmakers. "The state of our state is strong. Let's keep doing what works. Let's continue to make Florida the envy of the nation."

The intrigue: While DeSantis remained tight-lipped about his legislative aims this session, Republican leaders in the state House and Senate clearly stated theirs.

  • Passidomo's and Renner's speeches converged on issues of health care, school choice and the environment.
  • Passidomo promoted legislation to expand Florida's health care workforce — focusing on training and retention — while also shooting down hopes for expanding Medicaid.
  • Renner, meanwhile, drew attention to proposals aimed at limiting minors' access to social media and "taking a hard line" against youth gun violence.
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