The first day of the 2019 legislative session began Tuesday morning with a mostly well received State of the State address by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Democrats and Republicans agree that the governor has a clear plan for Florida, and everyone wants to see Florida have a successful session.
DeSantis began his remarks on the fourth floor of the Capitol, outing key aspects of his policy and its potential impact on the state.
He covered issues ranging from Hurricane Michael relief, protecting natural resources, taxation to higher education. He also outlined his stance on sanctuary cities and fracking.
The governor stressed the need for Florida to take bold actions moving forward.
“Be bold because while perfection is not attainable, if we aim high we can achieve excellence,” DeSantis said.
Senator Audrey Gibson gave the Democratic response shortly after DeSantis finished. Her remarks were largely critical of the governor’s proposals. She acknowledged his priorities on education and environmental issues and condemned his solutions.
“There are ominous signs that are rising, signaling that his proposed solutions really aren’t new,” Gibson said. “Worse that many of them are sewing more divisiveness in the legislative process and across our state.”
Gibson’s speech called for long range planning and outlined alternatives to many of the governor’s proposals. She was particularly critical of his stances on charter schools and sanctuary cities.
“Our constitution doesn’t mandate using tax dollars to pay for private schools,” Gibson said. “How bold is it to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment over sanctuary cities that don’t even exist in Florida.”
However, DeSantis’ speech managed to leave many legislators on both sides of the aisle optimistic about moving forward with the 60-day session, despite differences in opinions.
Democratic Senator Linda Stewart says she doesn’t foresee any heavy pushback for DeSantis.
“There’s always going to be things you can support wholeheartedly and then there are some that you probably don’t’ agree with,” Stewart said. “I think that he wants to be a law and order governor and to what extent he’s able to go really depends on the Legislature.”
Senate Pro Tempore David Simmons, a Republican, said Florida has problems resulting from success and lawmakers are committed to civility throughout this time.
“I think there will be areas in which we disagree but at the same time we are committed to having civility and certainly a free discourse about what is the best way to solve the problems that we have,” Simmons said. “Our challenges in the state of Florida are the challenges of success.”