Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis used his annual State of the State address to Florida lawmakers to boast about victories in the culture wars and preview policies that will be the foundation of his 2024 presidential campaign if he decides to run for president.
In a speech Tuesday, Mr. DeSantis told the Florida Legislature, which opened a 60-day session that day, that Florida’s population growth over the past few years was due to his decision to reject the advice of public health experts and launch a broader cultural struggle over content public school and higher education.
“We defied the experts, we stood up to the elites, we ignored the chatter, we did it our way: the Florida way. And as a result, we are the No. 1 destination for our fellow Americans looking for a better life,” he said.
The Florida governor also attacked the Biden administration’s immigration policies and accused Mr. Biden of allowing “tremendous amounts of fentanyl to be trafficked around the southern border,” which he said was responsible for “devastated families across our country.”
Mr DeSantis also said the Sunshine State was “on the front lines of the battle for freedom” and urged lawmakers to continue to deliver on GOP priorities, telling them: “Now is not the time to rest on our laurels.”
“We have the ability and really the responsibility to fence the fences so that we can ensure that Florida remains No. 1,” he said. “Don’t worry about the chatty class. Ignore all background noise. Keep the compass set to true north. We will stand strong. We will hold the line. We will not back down. And I promise you: you haven’t seen anything yet.”
His remarks came hours after lawmakers introduced perhaps one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws, the so-called “heartbeat” bill, which would make almost all abortions illegal after just six weeks of pregnancy.
The proposed legislation drew a sharp rebuke from White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre, who issued a statement condemning the measure.
“Florida’s proposed bill would ban abortions before many women know they are pregnant, effectively removing a woman’s right to make health care decisions about her own body. Politicians like Governor DeSantis advocate “freedom for all” while directly attacking the freedom to make one’s own health care decisions. This proposal is misguided and inappropriate for the vast majority of Americans, including Florida residents, who support a woman’s right to choose,” she said.
“This ban will not only prevent nearly four million women of reproductive age in Florida from accessing abortion after six weeks, but it will also affect the nearly 15 million women of reproductive age who live in southern states with abortion bans and will no longer be able to rely on Florida as an opportunity to access health care.”
Although Mr. DeSantis did not directly mention abortion in his speech, he said that the state he leads is “proud to be pro-life.”