Florida Politics

Democrats slam Gov. DeSantis’ state of state address, release their own agenda

In his state of the state address Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis implored the Legislature to “be bold.”

Facing lawmakers gathered in the Florida House chamber, he told them that “while perfection is not attainable, if we aim high we can achieve excellence.”

Shortly after he ended his speech to raucous applause, the Democrats responded with criticism. They pointed out issues he addressed that gave them pause, and then unveiled an agenda of their own.

In her formal response to the governor’s address, Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson said some of the governor’s messaging proposes a “bold” agenda that isn’t really bold at all.

“There are ominous signs that are rising, signaling that his proposed solutions really aren’t new at all,” the Jacksonville Democrat said. “Worse, that many of them are sowing more divisiveness, in the legislative process and across our state.”

Gibson denounced DeSantis’ stance on education, including his support of arming classroom teachers and goals to divert hundreds of millions of dollars to private schools, a leftover goal from Gov. Jeb Bush’s administration.

She also criticized DeSantis’ Supreme Court picks who, she said, “rubber stamp each other’s preconceived thoughts,” and what she called his anti-immigrant sentiment over sanctuary cities.

“Being ‘bold’ means a willingness to put forward policy ideas that embrace this diversity and govern accordingly,” she said.

House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee echoed Gibson’s sentiments in a YouTube video released shortly after the governor’s speech.

“Those who have controlled our process for the past 20 years have failed you,” the Miami Democrat said. “Our state isn’t working for you. It’s working for a select few who get to write and break the rules.”

After the governor’s address, progressive lawmakers and advocates also unveiled their “Sunrise Agenda”: a series of ideas ranging from raising the minimum wage to expanding Medicaid to implementing universal background checks.

Sister events were held Tuesday in West Palm Beach, Miami and Orlando.

“Republicans have had a stranglehold on state government for two decades, pushing an agenda that delivers tax breaks to big corporations and rolls back investments in our schools and protections for workers and the environment,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando. “The Sunrise Agenda puts Floridians first, not powerful special interests.”

Samantha J. Gross is a politics and policy reporter for the Miami Herald. Before she moved to the Sunshine State, she covered breaking news at the Boston Globe and the Dallas Morning News.