From his State of the State address, here's how Gov. Ron DeSantis will 'hold the line'

The governor hit on many traditional right-leaning and 'culture war' themes during his roughly half-hour speech.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis delivers the "State of the State" address at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida, on March 7, 2023.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis delivers the "State of the State" address at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida, on March 7, 2023. Photo by CHENEY ORR/AFP via Getty Images

At the conclusion of his State of the State speech, Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped a line that sounded like he was preparing his party for battle: “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.”

But Republicans in the Florida Legislature won’t need much motivation to get things done this session. With supermajorities in both chambers, they are free to pass the culture war issues DeSantis outlined in his speech, as well as long-standing conservative policy goals without much pushback. It’s kind of being up 50-0 at halftime. 

Before his mic drop moment, DeSantis had several quotable moments that highlight his priorities, not only as Florida's chief executive but also as a much-discussed possible Republican presidential contender. Here are some highlights of what he said and what it means, at least for Floridians this legislative session:

“Florida is not a sanctuary state and we will uphold the rule of law.”

The governor included criticisms of states that are more accommodating to what he called “illegal immigrants” during his address. It’s been a common theme during his tenure as governor, and he made national headlines last year after his migrant flights that took people seeking asylum in Texas through Florida and dropped them off in Martha’s Vineyard.

Before his address, state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican, filed a bill that targets migrants and prohibits any cities in the state from becoming “sanctuary cities.” That legislation (SB 1718), among other things, would not allow state ID cards or driver licenses for undocumented immigrants and would require hospitals that accept Medicaid to ask a patient's residency status on admission forms. The bill also increases penalties for several immigration-related offenses.

While he did not specifically mention the bill in his address, the governor’s statements on sanctuary cities suggest he will likely support the legislation if it hits his desk.

“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.”

DeSantis’ crusade against gender-affirming care took center stage again during his address. He said the state should provide protections against transition procedures.

Chloe Cole, a 18-year-old detransitioning advocate from California who has spoken at several Florida government meetings against gender-affirming care, was seated next to First Lady Casey DeSantis during the speech. She also got a shoutout from the governor during his address.

Bills have been filed for this session, with one banning the use of pronouns for preK to 12th grade students that are not associated with their sex at birth. Another would even remove trans children from the custody of their parents if they undergo gender-affirming treatment, including surgeries.

“A constitutional right shouldn’t require a permission slip from the government. It is time we joined 25 other states to enact constitutional carry in the state of Florida.”

While the Florida legislature seems uninterested so far in passing a full ‘constitutional carry’ bill, DeSantis still hasn’t given up his support for it.

While legislation would allow permitless concealed carry, the governor has publicly advocated for open carry for the past several years. Gun rights advocates have been critical of Republicans in the Legislature for not pushing a true open carry bill forward.

But most Americans are against even permitless carry. Only 10% of Democrats and 30% of Republicans support the policy.

“We defied the experts. We bucked the elites. We ignored the chatter. We did it our way, the Florida way. And the result is that we are the No. 1 destination for our fellow Americans who are looking for a better life.”

DeSantis made another victory lap about his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He mentioned his decision to open schools quicker than other states, prohibit employees from being fired for refusing to get vaccinated, and limiting mask mandates.

If he decides to run for president, the pandemic response will likely be brought up on the debate stage. Former President Donald Trump has already begun to criticize DeSantis for having lockdowns early in the pandemic. 

During the pandemic, over 7 million Floridians got COVID-19 while over 86,000 died. Most Floridians viewed DeSantis’ pandemic response favorably.

“We have made it very clear to prosecutors who believe they can disregard the law: You will be held accountable.”

Being tough on crime was another theme in DeSantis’ address, which included a thinly veiled shot at Democratic Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, whom he suspended from office. 

DeSantis did so because of Warren’s signing of statements that said he would not pursue criminal charges against seekers or providers of abortion or gender transition treatments. A federal judge earlier this year found that Warren’s suspension was wrong, but that he had no authority to reverse it.

The governor also is currently investigating another Democratic prosecutor, Orange County State Attorney Monique Worrell, for how she handled cases involving a suspect in the shooting of three people in Orlando.

“We are proud to be pro-family and we are proud to be pro-life in the State of Florida.”

While discussing how he is championing removing taxes on baby products like strollers and diapers, he again mentioned he was pro-life. He will likely have the opportunity to show that again this legislative session. 

Last year he signed a bill outlawing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A bill that was filed the morning of his address would bring the state’s limit down to six weeks.

At the same time, a legal challenge of the 15-week abortion ban passed last year is set to be heard by the Florida Supreme Court, which could affect the legality of a six week limit.

Contact Tristan Wood at twood@cityandstatefl.com and follow him on Twitter: @TristanDWood

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