Florida Politics

DeSantis promises lots of action on state Supreme Court, environment, local officials

lmower@miamiherald.com

Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis said he’d appoint a new Supreme Court justice on Wednesday morning and roll out policies on smokable marijuana and the environment over the next few weeks.

“Within the next week, I think you’re going to have a lot to write about,” DeSantis told reporters Monday, the day before he’s to be sworn in as Florida’s 46th governor.

DeSantis said that he expects his announcement on the environment, an issue that was central to his campaign last year, to receive bipartisan support.

“I think it’s something that doesn’t really fall neatly on party lines, and when you have these tough elections, it’s good to be able to do some things that are not just red vs. blue all the time,” he said.

He also warned that he is looking at removing “a number” of elected officials soon. Speculation has abounded that Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, whose office made a number of mistakes before, during and after the Parkland shooting, would be one of those people DeSantis is looking to remove.

“There will be executive actions on potentially a number of local officials within a relatively short time of taking office,” DeSantis said.

The goal, he said, is not to do it for political reasons, but to “get somebody in there that’s going to do a good job.”

“We’ll definitely have some actions on a number of different fronts,” he added. “I think you may be surprised at some of the fronts we’re looking at right now in that respect.”

And he’ll also be rescinding some of Gov. Rick Scott’s recent appointments. Scott, in a move that many considered to be a rebuke of his successor’s authority, appointed 76 people to various posts around the state on Friday.

“We will definitely rescind some of the appointments that are effectively lame duck appointments or that have not been confirmed by the Senate, and we’ll announce some of those soon,” DeSantis said.

But it’s DeSantis’ choices to fill three state Supreme Court vacancies that his running mate believes will have the most lasting impact on the state.

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Incoming Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nuñez said Monday that she had “no doubt” that DeSantis’ picks “will single-handedly be the most important thing for the future of this state that we’ve ever seen.”

“For far too long, those of us who have served in the Legislature have battled with the Supreme Court on many issues,” said Nuñez, a former state senator. “We are confident that the governor’s appointees are going to do what they are intended to do.”

DeSantis also touted the appointments in a speech Monday.

“I think both the executive and the legislative branches in Florida have had a lot of frustration with that third branch of government, the judiciary, constantly usurping more and more legislative power over the years,” he said. “Well, that ends tomorrow.”

DeSantis’ roughly 10-minute press conference after the speech was his only scheduled public interview during the two-day inaugural celebrations, and he seemed breezy and relaxed.

He joked that he’ll be using an airplane seized by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to get around the state, after Scott, a multimillionaire, sold the state planes upon taking office.

“I will not be traveling on my own private jet,” he joked. “If you look at my financial disclosures, it’s just the way it is. Somebody had asked me, ‘Oh, are you going to buy a house in Tallahassee? And I was like, ‘Oh, there’s a governor’s mansion.’ ‘I know, I just thought you’d maybe want another house.’ “

“I can’t just buy another house,” DeSantis said. “That’s just not the way it is.”

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Florida Governor-elect Ron DeSantis greets soldiers after announcing a $150,000 donation to Operation 300, which hosts adventure camps for children who have lost their fathers in combat. The ceremony, “A Call to Action,” honored members of the military and first responders, Jan. 7, 2019. Scott Keeler Tampa Bay Times

Later Monday afternoon, DeSantis said he was giving $150,000 in inaugural funds to a charity that helps children whose parents were killed in combat.

Speaking before hundreds of military and first responders, DeSantis said the money was going to Operation 300, a nonprofit based in Port Salerno.

The charity hosts camps for children whose fathers were killed in combat, according to the charity’s website. DeSantis’ inaugural funds come from private and corporate donors, not taxpayers.

“Sometimes we don’t do as good a job of appreciating how serving in the military is a team effort that really affects the families,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis, a former U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General who served in Iraq and Guantanamo, choked up while reading a letter about fallen WWI soldier Martin A. Treptow. The letter was also read by President Ronald Reagan during his inaugural address in 1981.

“We have people in this audience who have risked their lives, who have risked their lives in service of our country,” DeSantis said. “And so that, to me, is the essence of the American spirit.”

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