Democrats decry Florida’s ‘darker reality’ under Gov. DeSantis in State of the State rebuttals

Lauren Book Fentrice Driskell
‘Underneath (the Governor’s) carefully curated talking points, a much darker reality is clear.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida’s leading Democratic lawmakers have vastly different views on how the state is doing.

DeSantis briefly returned to Florida to deliver his annual State of the State address, cataloging his and the Republican-dominated Legislature’s achievements this past year and previewing their coming efforts.

The Governor opened his speech with soundbites from his presidential campaign. He lauded Florida’s low crime rate and historic population boom while bashing President Joe Biden’s economic and immigration record and the policies of states like California and Illinois that “have sparked an exodus of their residents.”

But things aren’t bright either in the Sunshine State, according to Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book and House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell, who each issued rebuttals following DeSantis’ speech.

“We just heard the Governor speak about Florida’s triumphs,” Book said. “Yet underneath carefully curated talking points, a much darker reality is clear.”

Florida may have a “booming economy” that produces a multibillion-dollar surplus yearly, Book said, but not all are benefitting from that growth.

Due to nation-leading inflation and skyrocketing housing and insurance costs, seniors face the “grim possibility” of losing their homes, she said, and many young people, including students, can’t afford to pay mortgage or rent.

Book noted that hundreds of thousands of Floridians lost their health care coverage last year while DeSantis and GOP lawmakers further stripped away access to abortion.

“Freedom of speech and peaceful protest have been curtailed,” she said. Voting rights have been eroded and labor unions are under “constant attack and face elimination by their own government.”

“Florida Senate Democrats, along with our colleagues in the House, are working tirelessly to defend our rights, restore affordability, and solve problems for everyday people — because we believe the great state of Florida, the home we love so much, is unquestionably worth fighting for,” she said.

Book referenced legislation she’s sponsoring this year to ensure women aren’t jailed for seeking abortion care and provide insurance rebates to low-income seniors. She pointed to a bill Sen. Tina Polsky filed to ban products that turn semiautomatic handguns into automatics.

Others, she said, included a measure by Sen. Shevrin Jones to delete a new public school requirement that students learn how slaves benefited from their bondage, a bill Sens. Lori Berman and Tracie Davis to expand Medicaid and a proposal by Sen. Darryl Rouson designed to protect seniors from fraud.

“Unfortunately, Democratic proposals are routinely rejected along party lines in favor of an agenda that prioritizes the interests of the few over the needs of many,” Book said. “But we will not give up.”

While DeSantis spent most of the last year “focused on his own political ambitions outside of Florida,” Driskell said lawmakers in his party “traded freedoms, taxpayer dollars” and Florida’s reputation to support the Governor’s White House aspirations.

“While that damage cannot be undone overnight, we can change course and make better choices for Florida’s future,” she said.

“Let’s focus on pocketbook issues, not book bans; affordability solutions instead of abortion restrictions; and create affordable housing, not tax breaks for DeSantis donors. Although Democrats are in the minority in Tallahassee, my Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate show up to do the work, and we use our voices to fight for the people of Florida every day.”

That involves fighting to again make Florida affordable for residents passing insurance reforms that benefit people as much as companies and restoring funding to the long-underfinanced Sadowski Trust Fund, which Driskell said GOP lawmakers have raided for decades to cover tax breaks for wealthy corporations.

She touched on health care, decrying a six-week abortion ban DeSantis signed last year — currently on hold pending a state Supreme Court ruling — and billions of missed-out-on dollars because of Florida’s refusal to accept Medicaid expansion and the money that comes with it.

Instead of rolling back gun safety laws and “trying to hide a workforce shortage” by weakening child labor protections, Florida policymakers should focus on improving education, Driskell said.

“That means ending the distracting culture wars, (which) don’t improve our economy or help anyone’s life. Let’s leave kids, library books and ‘woke’ boogeymen alone this year,” she said. “We’ve spent two years being governed by what DeSantis thinks would be most attractive to Iowa and New Hampshire Primary voters. That hasn’t made life better for Florida’s families.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • John L

    January 9, 2024 at 1:54 pm

    So Called governor of Florida…it should be Iowa. He spent a lot more time there this year than solving any real Florida issue. Meanwhile, Florida has highest insurance of any type…..highest prices in nation and worst real estate. DUH Santis does nothing to help us but culture war crap…he stinks.

    • The Dude

      January 9, 2024 at 2:56 pm

      Ask yourself why Florida has the highest home insurance rates in the nation. Look at the claims history on Florida homeowners insurance. Is that DeSantis fault or maybe Mother Nature and of course some insurance fraud.

      • Dont Say FLA

        January 9, 2024 at 3:25 pm

        I get that your saying “It’s not Rhonda’s fault” but I don’t get the “why” part of what you’re saying.

        It’s not Rhonda’s fault …. because other states don’t have weather or any insurance fraud?

        Pretty sure all other states are subject to the weather and some insurance fraud. Those are not unique to Florida.

  • The Dude

    January 9, 2024 at 2:59 pm

    Then there is Lauren Book and the rest of her Demo friends with the same tired and repeated over and over election year talking points. Let’s see: The Repubs are coming for your social security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc etc. Find something new Ms Book and your Demo friends.

    • Dont Say FLA

      January 9, 2024 at 3:31 pm

      Dude. Try CTRL+F

      Social security? CTRL+F Found only in The Dude’s comment

      Medicaid? CTRL+F Found only in The Dude’s comment

      Medicare? CTRL+F Found in The Dude’s comment, in one Dem proposal for the current legislative session, and in one statement of historical fact about how Rhonda’s G0P refused to accept Medicaid expansion, yet nothing about anyone coming for anybody’s Medicare.

      That’s 0/3 in trying to find support for your assertion about the same tired and repeated over and over election year talking points.

      That leaves us know your talking points are the tired, mindlessly repeated ones, Dude.

      Dude, try harder. C’mon, man!

    • Jo Henrion

      January 11, 2024 at 1:38 pm

      I personally think that’s enough.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn


This is default text for notification bar