DeSantis is rolling out his plans for Florida, from more migrant flights to a Disney revamp. It's all widely viewed as a policy blueprint for a presidential run
DeSantis has been laying out second-term 'Freedom Blueprint.'
It's widely viewed as a policy blueprint for the presidency.
He has already made some of his intentions clear, on areas from ESG to anti-China policy.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rocketed to Republican stardom thanks to his high-profile battles with the Biden administration, the millions he raised from donors, and his policies in Florida.
Today, he's the only Republican who polls close to former President Donald Trump in a hypothetical 2024 nomination race for the White House.
After handily winning reelection in November, his work in Florida isn't finished. The next few months of proposing and implementing his agenda are widely viewed in political circles as representative of the issues DeSantis plans to run on if he seeks the GOP nomination.
"I think you have seen that over the last four years when we say we are going to get something done, we get it done," DeSantis said during a press conference on January 12.
DeSantis, 44, has an enviable perch for a presidential run in his role as Florida's chief executive, one that includes a supportive GOP supermajority in the legislature that's likely to be deferential to his agenda.
More specifics about what the governor has called his "Freedom Blueprint" are expected in the weeks ahead, including when DeSantis delivers his State of the State address ahead of Florida's legislative session that begins in March. In that speech, he'll formally ask state lawmakers for changes to policy and the budget.
From cutting taxes to new policies on schools, here's what DeSantis has said so far about what Floridians should expect this year. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Limiting sustainable investing
DeSantis wants to block Florida's state-run fund managers from considering environmental, social, and corporate governance — or what many Republicans often refer to as "woke banking" — in making investment decisions. DeSantis first rolled out the proposal in January and provided more details this month, including that state and local governments couldn't use ESG when issuing municipal bonds.
In such cases, investment managers divest funds away from certain companies and toward what they view as more sustainable investments, including wind and solar panel companies. Companies that don't fit the profile may include oil and gas that are fueling the climate crisis, or guns and ammunition.
ESG investing is one of the fastest-growing portions of finance, and one embraced in Europe. But Republicans including DeSantis accuse investors of putting ideology over profits, and regulators are ramping up scrutiny of the practice.
During a press conference in Naples, Florida on February 13, DeSantis accused "elites" of using the investing approach to try to "jam this on society" and said he'd refuse to "sit and take it."
His proposal would also block banks and other financial institutions from using "ESG credit scores" in determining whether to let Floridians obtain a loan.
Banning vaccine and mask mandates
DeSantis wants the Florida legislature to permanently ban COVID vaccine and mask mandates. In 2021, the governor used his executive order power to block facilities from requiring people to show proof of vaccination.
That same year, the legislature sent DeSantis a bill to prohibit workplaces, K-12 schools, and public colleges from requiring masks or COVID-19 shots.
The governor faced criticism at the time, even from some fellow Republicans, who said they thought that individual counties should be free to decide the best public health measures for their residents.
It's not clear how much of a difference a new, permanent Florida law would make. Today, many judges have struck down vaccine mandates, and the Supreme Court in 2022 struck down President Joe Biden's vaccinate-or-test mandate for large workplaces.
Still, there's some legal wiggle room. On January 17, the Department of Justice asked an appeals panel to reverse a court ruling that said the federal government couldn't mandate masks on public transportation.
DeSantis wants to go even further in 2022 by blocking companies from asking potential workers about their vaccination status, or from asking current employees about it and firing them if they refuse to comply, he announced January 17.
"You can't fire people based on this personal decision," he said.
The new law DeSantis proposed would also allow doctors to speak openly about situations in which they disagree with the medical and scientific consensus — such as questioning the safety of vaccines for children — without worrying about losing their jobs or licenses.
Cutting sales taxes on numerous items
DeSantis proposed $1.1 billion in tax cuts for his second term. The state has wiggle room on spending because it finished the most recent fiscal year, in June, with a $22 billion surplus.
DeSantis will ask the Florida legislature to permanently lift the state's 6% sales tax on baby necessities including on cribs, strollers, clothing, shoes, wipes, and diapers. He also wants the state to nix the sales tax on medical equipment and on medicines for pets.
In an apparent dig at the Biden administration, he has asked for a tax exemption on gas stoves, which will cost the state $7 million. Richard Trumka Jr., a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, told Bloomberg in January that a gas stove ban was on the table, which ignited backlash among GOP politicians and consumers. Biden doesn't support a ban, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Other tax cuts would be temporary, including lifting the sales tax for a year on children's books, athletic equipment, and toys, as well as a proposal to suspend the sales tax on pet food and on household items that cost $25 or less. The latter would include items such as laundry detergent, paper towels, and toilet paper.
DeSantis billed his proposal as an inflation-fighting measure to provide relief on items such as high grocery prices.
But some analysts, such as Howard Gleckman at the Tax Policy Center, have warned that tax breaks could actually worsen inflation because people will spend and consume more at a time when supplies are limited. Florida currently is facing a housing affordability crisis in part due to the influx of out-of-staters with higher incomes who moved there.
Banning China from buying Florida farmland and residences
DeSantis is poised to ask state lawmakers to ban China from buying farmland and residences in Florida, the governor confirmed in January.
"We don't want to have holdings by hostile nations," the governor said. "And so if you look at the Chinese Communist Party, they've been very active throughout the Western Hemisphere in gobbling up land and investing in different things."
DeSantis said the actual structure of the policy was still being discussed so that his team could devise how to determine whether the Chinese government was behind a real estate investment.
While foreign policy generally tends to be a small part of a governor's role, such actions on China could add to DeSantis' foreign policy portfolio — which will be key should he seek the White House.
Cracking down on teachers' unions
DeSantis wants to make it harder for teachers to enroll and stay in Unions. Under a plan rolled out in December, teachers who work in Florida would have to send a check to their unions every month rather than automatically deduct the dues from their paychecks.
Teachers' unions have been one of the governor's top foes, particularly starting in the fall of 2020 after they resisted his push to reopen schools during the pandemic, and after DeSantis banned mask mandates in the classroom.
DeSantis also plans to raise teacher pay by record amounts, an increase of $200 million to $1 billion, though he hasn't specified how he would ensure it would also extend to teachers with more experience. Elsewhere in the state government he wants to raise state employee pay by 5% and increase pay for correctional officers to $23 an hour.
Overhauling higher education
DeSantis' budget, which he calls the "Framework for Freedom" would block state universities from using funding to support diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives or those deemed by the state to constitute "critical race theory." Colleges leaders would also be allowed to review faculty after they've attained tenure.
The budget also asks for $15 million to turn the New College of Florida in Sarasota from a liberal to a conservative-leaning institution. Some of the money would go toward hiring new faculty.
DeSantis during a press conference at the end of January accused higher education institutions of being focused on "ideological conformity" and "political activism" rather than to "promote academic excellence."
In response, the ACLU of Florida accused DeSantis on Twitter of trying to "restrict free speech and erase the history and legacy of discrimination in America."
More funding for elections police and shipping migrants to other states
DeSantis wants to add $3.1 million to the Office of Election Crimes and Security, an office he created in 2022 to investigate allegations of voter fraud. The funding would help create another 27 positions for the office.
DeSantis announced last year that the office arrested 20 people for voter fraud, though several had the charges dropped. In all, 11 million who voted in Florida during the 2020 election.
On immigration, DeSantis plans to continue sending migrants to other states, his budget indicates. He has asked the legislature for $12 million to relocate people who are living in Florida illegally — and even to relocate people living in other states. Last year the governor relocated migrants not from Florida but out of Texas to the wealthy enclave of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Increasing transparency on prescription drug prices
The governor released a detailed proposal in January to lower prescription drug prices, with actions that mostly focus on price transparency.
It would require pharmacy middlemen — known as Pharmacy Benefit Managers — to disclose more aspects of their businesses, such as complaints they've received, and would obligate prescription drug companies to disclose their price increases publicly, and explain the reasons for these increases.
DeSantis made his announcement one day after the Biden administration released key dates for a new program that will for the first time let Medicare negotiate prices of some of the most expensive medicines. The method is used in countries with similar economies, who pay far less for their medicines than Americans do.
Loosening gun restrictions
DeSantis wants lawmakers to pass legislation that would change Florida law so that gun owners could carry a gun in public without a concealed weapons permit.
Under current law, Floridians don't have to have a permit to buy or own a gun, but firearm owners must have a permit when they're in public.
The legislation, were it to pass, would come just a few years after the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
Making it easier for convicted criminals to get the death penalty
DeSantis wants a supermajority in a jury to be able to decide whether to invoke the death penalty against a defendant. Currently, state law requires a vote be unanimous.
The decision comes after one juror disagreed with the death penalty in the case of the convicted Parkland murderer. He received a life sentence in prison.
DeSantis also wants people convicted of raping children to serve life in prison and for the legislature to explore "options to make them eligible for the death penalty." Under his proposal, penalties would also increase for attempted sexual battery.
Finalizing changes to Disney's tax district
DeSantis signed a bill into law last year stripping Walt Disney World of its self-governing status, but it won't take effect until June of this year, and parts of the bill still need to be resolved so that Orlando, Florida, residents don't see tax hikes.
During a special session in February, the Florida legislature sent DeSantis a measure he pushed for that would replace Disney's special self-governing power with a governor-appointed, state-run board, Fox News first reported. It would also have Disney pay $700 million dollars toward its debt.
Areas of uncertainty remain
DeSantis is expected to continue to chip away at abortion rights. He signed a bill into law last year that makes it illegal to have an abortion after 15 weeks into a pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest.
So far, he has sidestepped questions about going further, saying only that he would "expand pro-life protections." The threat of abortion bans proved to be a major liability for Republicans during the 2022 midterms.
DeSantis is also expected to build off his Parental Rights in Education Act, the controversial legislation that critics call "Don't Say Gay." The law bans teachers from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation in classrooms through third grade, though it has nebulous language that could apply to higher grades.
DeSantis has made it clear he intends to go further, but hasn't delivered specifics yet. "We must ensure school systems are responsive to parents and to students, not partisan interest groups," he said on his January 3 inauguration.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story published January 13, 2023. It has been updated on January 17, 2023, February 2, 2023, and February 13, 2023 with new information about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' agenda.
Read the original article on Business Insider