(NSF/TALLAHASSEE, FL/March 7, 2023) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday gave his State of the State address to open the legislative session. Here are his remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Mr. Speaker, Madam President, members of the Legislature and fellow citizens:
It is my duty under the Constitution to inform the Legislature concerning the condition of the state and to recommend measures in the public interest.
Well, as we used to do in the military, here’s the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): Florida is number one and working together we will ensure that Florida remains the number one state in these United States.
Florida is the fastest growing state in the nation.
We rank number one for net in-migration.
We rank number one in the nation for new business formations.
We are number one in economic growth among large states.
Florida has more people employed today than before the pandemic. Our unemployment rate is one of the lowest on record and it is significantly lower than the national average.
And of course, as many of you know in this room, the last two years we’ve seen the largest budget surpluses in the history of the state of Florida.
And we do that with having the lowest per-capita state tax and lowest per-capita state debt burdens amongst all large states.
We rank number one in the nation in tourism and we just experienced yet another record-breaking year for visitors to the Sunshine State.
We are number one in law-enforcement recruitment and support. Florida’s crime rate stands at a 50-year low.
We rank number one in the nation for education freedom.
We rank number one in the nation for parental involvement in education.
We rank number one in fourth-grade reading and math amongst all large states.
And we have the number one public higher-education system in the country.
We are number one among large states for the quality of our roads.
And Florida has the top three cruise ports in the entire world. We rank number one for space-related development, manufacturing, and flight.
And, maybe most famously, we rank number one for protections of our citizens against the biomedical security state, from prohibiting “jab or job” mandates to banning vaccine passports to ensuring hospital visitation rights.
We defied the experts, we buck the elites, we ignored the chatter, we did it our way, the Florida way. And the result is that we are the number one destination for our fellow Americans who are looking for a better life.
Working together we have met big challenges and we’ve led the nation on many big issues.
We don’t make excuses, we don’t complain, we just produce results.
Florida stepped up in times of crisis. In September, Hurricane Ian smashed into Southwest Florida and barreled across our state. It left catastrophic damage in its wake, including the destruction of the Pine Island Bridge and the Sanibel Causeway.
Local island residents were told it would take six months or more to restore the bridges, and so they appealed to the state for help. We took up the challenge and three days later we opened a rebuilt Pine Island bridge. And two weeks after that, we were able to reopen the Sanibel Causeway after it had been severed in three locations.
We’re joined today by Stephen Soloway. Please stand and be recognized. He’s a business owner on Pine Island. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, he was helping residents by boat bring supplies for people that were in need. He has said that the reopening of the bridge was a godsend for the folks on Pine Island. They are coming back, and God bless you, sir.
Julie Wappes is the fourth grade teacher at the Sanibel School. She lost everything in her home and in her classroom. They had to have the school take place on the mainland, but because of the rebuilt causeway, a faster recovery has been facilitated and the school is now back open on Sanibel Island. Thank you for your service.
Also with us today is Barbara Morgan, a resident of Lee County. She was displaced from her home, had very bad damage, and she was trying to get a temporary trailer from FEMA. Well, they weren’t moving fast enough. So the state of Florida in a first-of-its-kind program in the nation stepped up to the plate, created our own program for travel trailers and we were delighted to be able to get Barbara in a trailer on her own property as she works to rehab her home. Thank you for being here and God bless you.
We’ve also delivered, for all Floridians much-needed economic relief. Due to the excessive spending and printing of money by the federal government, Americans are living through the worst period of sustained inflation in decades. We’ve worked together to reduce the pain of inflation by enacting over $1 billion in tax relief in this current year’s budget and by slashing tolls by 50% for Florida commuters for this calendar year. That will save some families more than $1,000. Thank you, Legislature, for stepping up for our consumers.
Florida’s proud to stand for law and order. We are tough on crime and we support the men and women of law enforcement. And we have made it very clear to prosecutors who believe they can disregard the law, you will be held accountable.
Thanks to action of the Legislature, we enacted a recruitment-bonus program to recruit law-enforcement officers from other states and that program has surpassed expectations.
Joining us today is Officer Mercedes Phillips from the Cape Coral Police Department. She was able to take advantage of this program, received a $5,000 signing bonus this summer, leaving Montgomery County, Maryland, now working in Cape Coral. And guess what? She got here just in time for the hurricane, but she wouldn’t trade what she’s done and she’s made a great move. So thank you for your service and we’re happy to have you in Florida.
We believe that borders matter and we have fought against illegal immigration in the state of Florida, from banning sanctuary cities to suing the Biden Administration over its catch and release policies to transporting illegal aliens to sanctuary jurisdictions. We have put Floridians first and we will continue to do that.
We’ve also provided robust support for K through 12 education. We have enacted record increases in teacher salaries. We’ve expanded school choice and we have protected the rights of parents. Joining us here today is Tiqkia Barrow, a fifth grade teacher from Renaissance Charter School in Wellington and a U.S. Army veteran. She had to leave the teaching profession for a time being. Part of the reason she came back is because we were increasing salaries, and she’s brought her U.S Army experience back into the classroom. So thank you for what you do every day for our students. God bless.
Joining Ms. Barrow is Melissa Anne Matz. She’s a seventh grade math teacher from Clay County and she is the 2023 Florida Teacher of the Year. Thank you for what you’re doing and keep up the great work. Thank you so much.
We’re also joined by Alicia Farrant. She’s a mother of five who attend Orange County Public Schools. She was a concerned parent, who a year or two ago because she saw that there was inappropriate material in her children’s library and school items that were even pornographic. So she raised the issue. She got a positive result, but she decided to get more involved and this past November, she was elected to the Orange County School Board as a parents’ rights candidate. Congratulations to you and best of luck.
We believe in workforce education and we’ve expanded opportunities for Floridians to obtain certifications and credentials. A four-year degree from a traditional brick-and-ivy university is one way you can be successful. It is not the only way.
Joining us here today is Kirk Corwin. He’s a driver with WalPole Inc. He was able to get his commercial driver’s license through one of our programs here in the state of Florida. He was also spared his job when the Legislature came in and we protected against the vax mandates. So thank you for stepping up and thank you for fulfilling an important role in our economy.
Four years ago, the state was producing about 600 truck drivers a year. Now through all of our initiatives over the last four years, we’re capable of producing 3,500 truck drivers each and every year. You want to talk about supply chain, you want to talk about making sure our economy runs, these guys are really important for that.
We’re also here with Raeanne Champion who fulfills another very important role in the state of Florida. She recently graduated from the nursing program at Seminole State College. I think as many of you know, there’s a nationwide nursing shortage. And so what we’ve been able to do with the help of the Legislature is put record resources into our systems so we can train more Floridians to become nurses. Thank you for what you’re doing. I know everybody appreciates having a great nurse. God bless.
Florida has provided the strongest protections for medical freedom during the coronavirus pandemic of any state in the country. We have prohibited COVID shot mandates in schools, we have banned vaccine passports and we have protected Floridians from losing their jobs due to their personal decision about whether to take or not take the COVID jab.
We’re joined here by Dr. Tim Boyett. He’s a radiologist and his job at a hospital in the Panhandle was saved due to the actions of the Legislature to provide protections for all Floridians. No Floridians should have to choose between a job they need and a shot they don’t want. Thank you doctor for standing strong.
With your support, we’ve ushered in a new era of stewardship for Florida’s natural resources, securing historic funding for water quality and Everglades projects, improving our water policy and utilizing technology to combat things like algal blooms and red tide. We promised to leave Florida to God better than we found it and we are making good on that promise.
November’s election results represent a vindication of our joint efforts over these past four years.
The results also vest in us the responsibility to lead and provide us the opportunity to shoot for the stars.
Boldness be our friend in this endeavor. We have a lot we need to accomplish.
Our $2 billion tax cut package is the largest tax-cut package in Florida history. It will help many who need relief from inflation, especially our Florida families. By permanently eliminating sales tax on all baby supplies, diapers, wipes, closed cribs, strollers, we will be able to say that in Florida, having a child will be tax-free. We are proud to be pro-family and we are proud to be pro-life in the state of Florida.
Floridians are also harmed by inflation when it comes to the prices of prescription drugs, especially due to pharmacy middlemen. We must bring transparency to the system so that Floridians can save money on their drugs. We need reform of the PBMs!
While our economy has consistently outperformed the nation as a whole. Florida’s lawsuit-happy legal climate is still holding us back. The legal system should be centered on achieving justice, not lining the pockets of lawyers.
Speaker Paul Renner is stepping up to deliver much-needed legal reform and I thank him for helping Florida reach its full economic potential.
Our state is growing. Americans are voting with their feet and we need to ensure that we’re getting ahead of the population expansion by accelerating infrastructure projects. Our Moving Florida Forward infrastructure initiative will expedite 20 major interstate and roadway projects over the next four years. This will allow these projects to be completed a decade ahead of schedule and just think of how much time that will save Floridians from having to sit in the awful traffic that they sometimes have to do.
We also need to ensure that our supply of housing is adequate to meet the needs of those in our workforce. Workers who make our economy tick should be able to find a place to live that’s affordable in their general area of their jobs.
And I want to thank President Kathleen Passidomo for tackling this issue head-on and I look forward to working with her to deliver big results.
We must continue our stewardship of Florida’s natural resources by supporting additional water quality and Everglades restoration efforts, enhancing protection for our coastlines and establishing the Indian River Lagoon Protection Program. We are truly making history with our conservation efforts. Let’s not stop now.
We have rejected the biomedical-security state in Florida and have provided protections for Floridians against unwanted medical interventions, but those protections are set to expire in July. It’s important that we make all of these protections. Permanent protection from medical authoritarianism should not have an expiration date in the free state of Florida.
We also need to protect the free speech rights and conscience rights of physicians. The medical establishment whiffed an awful lot during COVID and physicians who follow the evidence should not be penalized simply because they buck a stale consensus.
We must continue our momentum with K through 12 education by increasing teacher salaries, enacting a teacher’s bill of rights, providing paycheck protection for teachers, expanding school choice and fortifying parents’ rights. Our schools must deliver a good education, not a political indoctrination.
And it’s sad that we have to say this, but our children are not guinea pigs for science experimentation and we cannot allow people to make money off mutilating them. Chloe Cole is now a young adult, but she was receiving puberty blockers at age 13 and she underwent a double mastectomy at age 16. She’s now an advocate against allowing these procedures for our children. Chloe, thank you for your bravery and the people of Florida and the Legislature should heed your advice and provide protections against these procedures.
The massive amount of fentanyl being trafficked across the Southern border has devastated families across our nation. Kim Kelly from Jacksonville is joining us. She recently lost her son Palmer to fentanyl poisoning, but she is sharing Palmer’s story because she wants to see additional accountability. Thank you for your bravery and we’re so sorry for your loss.
We need to increase penalties for fentanyl dealers, especially those who target our children. And to do that we must treat them like the murderers that they are. We must further strengthen our laws against illegal immigration by enhancing employment verification, increasing penalties for human smuggling and further disincentivizing illegal immigration to the state of Florida. Florida is not a sanctuary state and we will uphold the rule of law.
Joining us here today is Stacy Kaszuba. She’s from Sarasota. Nearly two years ago an illegal alien broke into her home and sexually assaulted her. He should have never been in this country in the first place and if the federal government had done its job like it’s supposed to, Stacy would never have been victimized. Enough is enough. Thank you for being willing to speak out and to share your story.
We also need to ensure that our bail system is conducive to public safety. Dangerous criminals should not simply be put back on the street like we see what happens in states that have gone so far as to abolish cash bail entirely. Police officers should not have to repeatedly risk their lives to apprehend the same criminal over and over again.
We also understand that part of fighting crime is to protect Floridians’ right to defend themselves. A constitutional right should not require a permission slip from the government. It is time we join 25 other states to enact constitutional carry in the state of Florida!
The Chinese Communist Party represents the greatest economic, strategic and security threat that our country faces. We in Florida long recognized this and have taken action such as banning the CCPs Confucius Institutes at our state colleges and universities. Now we see the CCP trying to make strategic land purchases across the U.S. and our message in Florida is very simple. We will not allow land grabs by CCP-backed businesses in our state.
I am happy to be joined here by our First Lady, my wife, Casey. Over the past four years, she spearheaded efforts to help our youth avoid drugs, promote emotional resiliency in schools, and provide a pathway to prosperity for the less fortunate. She also gave birth to our daughter Mamie and most recently fought a battle against breast cancer. I was here last year saying we would be able to announce that she was cancer-free, and I can tell you she is cancer-free and she is doing better than ever.
Now she has taken her experience as a cancer survivor and helped to launch the Cancer Connect Collaborative, which will rethink Florida’s battle against cancer by breaking down longstanding silos between researchers, cancer facilities and medical providers to provide and improve research and treatment. And I want to thank her for taking her experience, as difficult as it was, and applying it in ways that are going to help people battle cancer. Thank you so much.
So we find ourselves in Florida on the front lines in the battle for freedom.
Together we have made Florida the nation’s most desired destination and we have produced historic results.
But now’s not the time to rest on our laurels.
We have the opportunity and indeed the responsibility to swing for the fences so that we can ensure Florida remains number one.
Don’t worry about the chattering class.
Ignore all the background noise.
Keep the compass set to true north.
We will stand strong.
We will hold the line.
We won’t back down.
And I can promise you this, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Thank you all. God bless you.