Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried jousted Tuesday with Gov. Ron DeSantis over a new law that will allow the Florida Cabinet to overrule municipalities’ decisions to cut local law enforcement budgets.
Speaking at a Cabinet meeting before a procedural vote on the issue, Fried described the provision as the latest example of “Tallahassee bullying local governments into submission” under the Republican Governor’s leadership.
Moreover, Fried, a Democratic gubernatorial contender, called the Cabinet’s support of the provision “straight up hypocritical interference,” citing a 2018 quote by DeSantis advocating for small government: “I reject the idea that government bureaucrats in a faraway capital could plan our lives better than we could plan them ourselves.”
Using the quote as a political baton, Fried then posed a question to DeSantis and Republican Cabinet members.
“Now, the so-called party of small government is yet again telling government closest to the people what they can and cannot do with their money,” she said. “So, as you vote today, ask yourself, who is really the big government bureaucrat in the faraway Capitol?”
The jab drew a swift counterpunch from DeSantis.
While DeSantis said he was unsure of the context of his 2018 quote, he asserted that the new law will protect Floridians and law enforcement from “rogue” local governments.
“What the rule does is it says, very clearly, to the people of Florida, if your municipal government tries to defund law enforcement, we’ve got your back,” DeSantis fired back.
“We are going to protect you,” DeSantis continued. “We are not going to allow some rogue local government do insane things like defunding the police, like we have seen massive cuts in other parts of this country, where we’ve seen crime skyrocket out of control.”
Under DeSantis’ prized anti-riot bill, a state attorney or local elected official can petition the state’s Administration Commission when a local government moves to slash a law enforcement budget.
The Commission consists of the Governor, the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer and the Agriculture Commissioner.
The bill was among the more contentious pieces of legislation during the 2021 Legislative Session.