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2019 Session Opening Day: Ron DeSantis prefers shorter speeches

“I didn’t say a lot about a lot of things.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t want his inaugural State of the State speech to get bogged down in dreary detail.

So the fact that he didn’t specifically mention a pressing state issue — say, state worker salaries — doesn’t mean he’s not working on it.

That’s what the new governor told reporters in the Capitol rotunda immediately following his address.

“I didn’t say a lot about a lot of things,” DeSantis said. “There’s probably 30 different things I could have put in there.

“My view is that that’s probably about as long a speech as I’ll ever give. I’m not going to give a speech for an hour. I think it bores people, and you’ve just got to move on,” he added.

“I tried to hit some of the high points. I know there are other issues that we’ve been engaged in on a variety of fronts. I wouldn’t say the exclusion of any of that means we’re not going to take action.”

The Governor did expand on his attack on so-called sanctuary cities.

“If you polled that, you would get a majority of Democratic voters saying, ‘We don’t want it.’ This is an elite, left-wing view … that is not popular in any demographic at all,” he said.

Also, DeSantis believes his planned revamp of the teacher bonus program — removing the SAT exam requirement and upping bonuses to $10,000 — appears popular.

“We look back on last year’s statistics, I think like 1 percent of the teachers who received bonuses were African Americans. Under my formula, it would have been about 10 percent. So I think it’s probably a more fair way to go about it, and I think you have bipartisan support for that.”

DeSantis said he’s being deliberate in scrutinizing candidates for Secretary of Health and other administration jobs: “I want to do that as soon as possible, but I don’t want to rush a decision.”

His dismissal of some of the late appointments by his predecessor, Republican Rick Scott, were “not really a verdict on them. But some of these midnight appointments — these are people serving in my government and I had no say in somebody who literally was appointed six hours before I took office. So we wanted to take a fresh look at that.”

So how did the speech go over with lawmakers?

“There was definitely a lot of room for agreement between Gov. DeSantis and Democrats,” Orlando Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith said. He cited the teacher bonus initiative, environmental funding, lowering prescription drug prices, and the Groveland Four pardons.

“Those are areas where I think he’s going to find a lot of agreement with Democrats,” Smith said.

The caucus will disagree with the governor on Medicaid expansion and “this xenophobic, anti-immigrant rhetoric. It’s really dangerous. I don’t understand this obsession with wanting to ban sanctuary cities that don’t exist in the state of Florida,” he said.

Still, “anything is an improvement over Gov. Scott. He really did not understand the needs of everyday Floridians. He ignored entire communities that he didn’t have any respect for. I feel like we have nowhere to go but up.”

The speech was a “mixed bag,” as far as Democratic House member Joe Geller of Aventura was concerned. He welcomed DeSantis’ take on the environment and the BDS movement targeting Israel.

“There was a lot of stuff to like. Now, money for private school tuition is not part of that, and I don’t think Sheriff (Scott) Israel was dealt with appropriately. That said, there were things to agree with and a few to disagree with. Compared to previous gubernatorial speeches I’ve heard in this chamber, it was very good,” he said.

“I’m hopeful we can do some business with this guy. That we can find some accommodations on the issues we don’t agree on, and certainly work together on issues we do agree on. He’s had a positive start in a lot of ways.”

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Republican from Jacksonville, pronounced the speech “a home run.”

DeSantis “hit on all cylinders,” he said. “I’m proud of him.” Bean credited the governor for reaching out to both parties: “When he does that, we appreciate it.”

And the Groveland Four pardon, he added, “builds trust and camaraderie. Plus, it was the right thing to do.”

Written By

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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