Ron DeSantis is sworn in as Florida’s governor in Tallahassee on Jan. 8.
Jan. 9, 2019 by David Silverberg
Sworn in yesterday as the 46th governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis made his priorities known in his inaugural speech.
The speech followed fairly standard forms and showed little originality or new departures. As a protege and creature of President Donald Trump, DeSantis leaned heavily toward the Trumpist playbook. However, some items stood out as being of particular relevance to Southwest Florida.
- In a rare departure from the Trumpist agenda, he acknowledged the importance of environmental stewardship, which is barely an afterthought for Trump and had previously held a low priority for Gov. Rick Scott. “For Florida, the quality of our water and environmental surroundings are foundational to our prosperity as a state—it doesn’t just drive tourism; it affects property values, anchors many local economies and is central to our quality of life. The water is part and parcel of Florida’s DNA. Protecting it is the smart thing to do; it’s also the right thing to do,” DeSantis said.
- In discussing the environment, DeSantis waxed positively Churchillian in his promises: “We will fight toxic blue-green algae, we will fight discharges from Lake Okeechobee, we will fight red tide, we will fight for our fishermen, we will fight for our beaches, we will fight to restore our Everglades and we will never ever quit, we won’t be cowed and we won’t let the foot draggers stand in our way.” While he didn’t say he would never surrender, he did resolve “to leave Florida to God better than we found it” (which sounds as if it’s about to revert back to God sooner than we might prefer).
- On education, he called for greater emphasis on vocational, technical and “skill-based” education, particularly in computer science and technology. He stated that “our education system needs to empower parents to choose the best possible school for their children”—a seeming endorsement of private, charter and for-profit schools, although he also said that educational opportunities “must extend to every Floridian regardless of race, color or creed.” If it was not a condemnation of public education neither was it a ringing endorsement.
- On health care he stated: “The escalating cost of medical care, prescription drugs and health insurance has wreaked havoc on family budgets, priced many out of the market entirely, and has put significant stress on our state budget. The current system is riddled with perverse incentives, intrudes on the doctor-patient relationship and is mired in bureaucracy and red tape. The people of Florida deserve relief.” Presumably more specific plans to do this will be forthcoming in the days ahead.
- He really came out swinging against the judiciary: “for far too long Florida has seen judges expand their power beyond proper constitutional bounds” he said and he vowed: “judicial activism ends, right here and right now. I will only appoint judges who understand the proper role of the courts is to apply the law and Constitution as written, not to legislate from the bench. The Constitution, not the judiciary, is supreme.”
- He said he would stand with people in law enforcement and work to keep schools and communities safe, although there was not a hint of gun regulation. In supporting the rule of law, he vowed: “We won’t allow sanctuary cities. And we will stop incentivizing illegal immigration.”
None of this came as any surprise.
All Floridians should carefully watch DeSantis’ environmental policymaking and actions to see if he really means what he says on this issue and walks the walk. A good and easy starting point for DeSantis would be to publicly lift Rick Scott’s previous ban on use of the term “climate change” by state employees.
Supporters of public education need to very much monitor DeSantis’ education moves. The public education system is under threat and pressure from the for-profit education industry and the anti-public school movement.
Immigrants of all stripes and undocumented aliens can expect state crackdowns alongside the federal anti-immigration effort. This will primarily affect the state’s agricultural enterprises, including those in Southwest Florida. The loss of cheap, undocumented labor will probably result in rising food prices from the field to the fork. On this, it’s hard to discern any difference between DeSantis’ and Trump’s positions.
As for sanctuary cities, there are none in Florida. Only the Florida counties of Alachua and Clay have demurred from assisting federal enforcement actions, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, a restricted-immigration advocacy organization. DeSantis’ pledge was a solution in search of a problem.
It’s going to be a long four years.
Liberty lives in light