It was Florida against the world — or at least against other states that imposed “woke ideology” and “philosophical lunacy” — as Gov. Ron DeSantis kicked off his second term last week.
DeSantis delivered an inaugural address Tuesday on the steps of the Old Capitol, giving the crowd that spilled over into downtown Tallahassee’s Monroe Street a smattering of campaign rhetoric.
“These last few years have witnessed a great test of governing philosophies as many jurisdictions pursued a much different path than we have pursued here in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said during the roughly 16-minute address.
“The policies pursued by these states have sparked a mass exodus of productive Americans from these jurisdictions — with Florida serving as the most desired destination, a promised land of sanity,” DeSantis added. “Many of these cities and states have embraced faddish ideology at the expense of enduring principles.”
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DeSantis, who in November defeated Democratic challenger Charlie Crist by nearly 20 percentage points, is widely viewed as a potential 2024 presidential contender. And while DeSantis didn’t mention President Joe Biden directly Tuesday, he accused the federal government of leaving the nation weaker through pandemic restrictions, inflationary spending, and energy and immigration policies he opposes.
The governor didn’t go into many specifics on policy initiatives, drawing criticism from Democrats who took issue with what wasn’t said.
House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, told The News Service of Florida that “everyday issues” such as property insurance, healthcare affordability, and housing affordability were missing from the governor’s speech.
“It was incredible to me just to listen to this governor not actually address the people of Florida but rather project his remarks, in my opinion, to donors. Billionaire donors and Republican primary voters,” Driskell said. “It wasn’t a speech for Florida or really about Florida.”
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Susan MacManus, a retired political-science professor at the University of South Florida, called the DeSantis address a “generic” message that balanced themes of economic and cultural issues.
“I think there was some concern he would just focus on the cultural,” MacManus said. “The economic message was first and foremost. And I think if you’re looking ahead, with what people expect to happen in the national economy in the next few years, was probably a good thing to do.”
DeSantis was joined by Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez in being sworn in for second four-year terms.
The only office that changed hands Tuesday involved former Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Republican who was sworn in to replace Democrat Nikki Fried as agriculture commissioner.
DeSantis has already started carrying out part of his inaugural address about weeding out “trendy ideology” from higher education.
“We must ensure school systems are responsive to parents and to students, not partisan interest groups, and we must ensure that our institutions of higher learning are focused on academic excellence and the pursuit of truth, not the imposition of trendy ideology,” the governor said in his prepared remarks.
The DeSantis administration on Dec. 28 directed the heads of Florida’s college and university systems to collect information about resources that schools are putting into activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory. The request became public Wednesday.
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“As the Executive Office of the Governor prepares policy and budget proposals ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session, it is important that we have a full understanding of the operational expenses of state institutions,” Chris Spencer, director of the governor’s Office of Policy and Budget wrote in a Dec. 28 memo to Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. and university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues.
Colleges and universities are required to provide a list of all “staff, programs and campus activities related to diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory,” that would include costs, staff, and state funds tied to the programs.
United Faculty of Florida President Andrew Gothard, said his union is “deeply concerned” about the memo, which he called a “horrible directive.”
“Attempts such as these by the governor to chill speech and to intimidate those he disagrees with into remaining silent, altering their curriculum, and silencing their students are an affront to democracy and the American way of life,” Gothard, who is a professor at Florida Atlantic University, said in a statement to The News Service of Florida.