Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called for teacher raises, the eradication of Burmese pythons in the Everglades and a new law to force girls to get their parents' permission before getting an abortion during his State of the State address on Tuesday.
DeSantis said keeping taxes low, improving education and protecting the environment will help Florida continue to grow. He said he wants to build on some of his successes from his first year in office.
“In 2019, we took bold steps to expand educational opportunities, protect our environment and natural resources, reform health care, invest in infrastructure and bolster public safety — all while reducing taxes and maintaining healthy budget reserves," DeSantis said. “While we should look with favor on these bold beginnings, we have much more to do.”
The speech marked the opening of the Legislature's annual 60-day session. He spoke in the House chamber, where lawmakers desks' were covered in flowers. Members of the Supreme Court and the state's three Cabinet members also attended the address.
While touting a boost in adoption rates, DeSantis told lawmakers he wants them to pass a bill that would require girls under the age of 18 to get their parents' permission to get an abortion. The state already requires girls' parents be notified if they have an abortion.
DeSantis also said he wants lawmakers to pass a wide-ranging bill to address Florida's algae problem. The goal is to reduce fertilizers and nutrients flowing into the state's waterways.
“I believe that stewardship of our natural resources is key to our economic well-being — our water is the foundation of our tourism industry, makes Florida the top fishing and boating destination in the world and enhances our property values,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also called for a bill that would require employers to use E-verify, a system that ensures people are legally allowed to work in the United States.
“Lower-income workers … shouldn’t have their wages depressed by cheap foreign labor. Assuring a legal workforce through E-verify will be good for the rule of law, it will protect taxpayers, and it will place an upward pressure on the wages of Floridians who work in blue collar jobs,” DeSantis said. “We need to make sure that our Florida citizens from all walks of life come first.”
DeSantis also wants the Legislature to raise the state's minimum salary for teachers to $47,500, which he says will boost the pay for 100,000 educators. In addition to raises, he wants to make sure students are taught American civics and the U.S. Constitution.
“This means understanding the source of our rights, and it means understanding the theory of the Declaration of Independence, understanding the structure of the Constitution and as well as key amendments such as the Bill of Rights, the post-Civil War amendments and the Nineteenth Amendment. This also means developing an appreciation for how these enduring principles animated key points in American history,” DeSantis said.
Much of his agenda would build on his policies for education, the environment and immigration.
“He's focused on the vision that he cast last year. This was a ‘We don’t need major course corrections. I understand the direction that we want to take the state. We're doing many things right. Let's stay on course'," said Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes. “Education, the environment, immigration — all of those issues were part of the overall bold vision last year. He's riding a high after last year.”
Democratic Rep. Loranne Ausley said she was pleased the governor spent much of his speech talking about the environment and education.
“He is leading on these issues that have strong bipartisan support,” Ausley said.
But while she agrees teachers should get raises, she said the governor's approach doesn't go far enough.
“$600 million is a start, but we need to make a long time commitment to our schools and our teachers,” Ausley said.