Then and now: How DeSantis’ State of the State speeches have changed (2023)

For the first State of the State address of his second term on Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis is kicking off the Florida legislative session in a much different position than he was four years ago.

When DeSantis took office in 2019, he had defeated his Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum by a razor-thin margin – less than one percent – and was a little-known political figure nationally with an uncertain future.

DeSantis appears before the Republican-led Legislature in Tallahassee in a changed environment. He’s coming off a landslide victory against former Gov. Charlie Crist, has been traveling the country to fundraise and promote his new book, “The Courage to be Free,” and is preparing to launch an expected 2024 presidential campaign once the legislative session is over. Polls show he and Donald Trump lead the field for the GOP nomination.

This State of the State speech, his fifth, will be closely watched and dissected far beyond Florida’s borders for clues to not only his ambitions for the state but how he would market himself as the Republican presidential nominee.

His past speeches can be notable for what’s unsaid compared with the governor’s rhetoric today. He didn’t mention the word “woke” in any of his previous addresses, although he now regularly peppers his speeches with the conservative epithet when talking about progressives’ policies.

And issues such as gun rights and abortion did not receive any attention from the governor until last year’s State of the State, when he promised to strengthen protections for both. His previous addresses were silent on any issues involving transgender people.

Ahead of his appearance Tuesday, a look back at the annual address over the last four years offers insights into the governor’s changing priorities, shifting agendas and evolving politics in what may be the highest-stakes speech of his career.


Criticism of “woke” education and what the governor calls indoctrination in schools has become a hallmark of the DeSantis administration. But in the governor’s early State of the State addresses, that wasn’t the focus of his plan to improve Florida’s educational system.

Career and technical education were a top priority of the governor in 2019. Vowing to make Florida the No.1 state for workforce education by 2030, DeSantis set out on expanding apprenticeship grant programs and skills-based education funding. Conservatives have regularly endorsed trades-based alternatives to liberal arts degrees from colleges or universities.

(Video) #DeSantis on why #Florida blocked AP African American studies

Marsan Carr, executive director of the Florida Association for Career and Technical Education, praised DeSantis’ promotion of the field. Carr said the governor’s support has allowed for “programs so we can expand and better serve the people who are the backbone of the workforce for the state of Florida.”

School choice was also a big topic in 2019 as DeSantis honed in on expanding vouchers. After the legislative session that year, DeSantis had signed a bill creating the Family Empowerment Scholarship, which provides state money for eligible students to attend private school based on family income.

Recruiting and retaining teachers was another priority of the governor’s in 2019, around four years later the state faces a massive teacher shortage. In August 2016, there were about 2,400 teacher vacancies around the state, according to data collected from the Florida Education Association. By 2022, that number had more than doubled.

The pandemic and new curriculum changes have contributed to the shortage, Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said, but the leading cause is teacher pay.

Aside from raising the minimum salary, DeSantis has mentioned teacher bonuses in some of past addresses as a way to reward and retain instructors. A $1,000 teacher bonus was awarded in 2021, which the governor mentioned in his address last year.

In the upcoming budget, DeSantis has proposed distributing $200 million more toward increasing teacher pay in 2023 and he’s likely to highlight that in his Tuesday address to state lawmakers.

Reopening schools during the pandemic also became a major point for DeSantis in both the 2021 and 2022 addresses, after he had ordered schools closed from March to August 2020.

Hints of controversial education changes started in the governor’s 2019 address when he briefly mentioned that then-Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran was looking into standards that would have a “new emphasis on American civics.”

The bulk of DeSantis’ most divisive curriculum policies were enacted in 2021 and 2022, notably the Parents’ Bill of Rights and the Parental Rights in Education bill, which critics have labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The governor celebrated the passage of the Parents’ Bill of Rights in his 2022 address, saying, “We reject the notion that parents shouldn’t have a say in what their kids learn in school.”

(Video) JUST IN: Gov. Ron DeSantis Pushes Back On Media Reports He Wants Bloggers To Register With State


DeSantis has lauded Florida’s economy in every State of the State address. The Sunshine State is depicted as a haven for entrepreneurial small businesses and economic opportunity, and a state that taxes lightly.

“Freedom works,” DeSantis said in 2022. “Our economy is the envy of the nation. And the state is well prepared to withstand future economic turmoil.”

The portrayal of the overall Florida economy and the state’s fiscal health is backed up by the numbers, specifically unemployment, labor force and state revenue. But some other areas – like affordable housing – have worsened.

Last year, DeSantis boasted of one of the largest budget surpluses in state history, around $22 billion. A major factor that contributed to the surplus, along with high tax collections and the governor’s insistence on reopening businesses during the pandemic, was federal pandemic relief funding.

Florida received almost $6 billion from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act for services such as education, health services and agriculture, according to the Florida Department of Financial Services. Another $2.47 billion was directly distributed to the state’s 12 largest counties.

While touting economic freedom during the pandemic in 2021 and 2022, DeSantis grew increasingly critical of “authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions” in response to COVID-19 in 2022. He shifted from commending the state’s vaccination efforts that he said saved lives in 2021 to emphasizing monoclonal antibody treatments a year later for those who had become infected.

DeSantis also has applauded low unemployment rates in his State of the State speeches.

Since the end of 2020, Florida’s unemployment rate has remained below the national average. In December 2022, Florida’s unemployment rate was 2.5%, which is 1 percent lower than the national average and the lowest it has been since 2006.


While DeSantis has hailed Florida’s economic health, he hasn’t mentioned a key related issue: affordable housing.

Rental prices have been on a gradual increase since 2010 but began to soar at the onset of the pandemic. Some cities in Florida have seen rate increases in the double digits in the past few years, according to a 2022 study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

(Video) Gov. DeSantis speaks after State of the State address

Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said residents in her district face homelessness due to the rising cost of living, particularly housing. It’s a topic often glossed over by the governor, Eskamani said, because he wants to emphasize how well Florida is doing.

“I suspect he’ll continue to ignore these real economic issues and just focus on the bulk of his culture wars,” Eskamani said.


In DeSantis’ first and last State of the State address of his first term as governor, he proposed tough immigration policies.

DeSantis vowed that Florida would not become a sanctuary state, which offers support to undocumented immigrants and limits interaction with federal immigration authorities.

“We won’t tolerate sanctuary cities that actively frustrate law enforcement by shielding criminal aliens from accountability at the expense of public safety,” DeSantis said in his 2019 address. The measure was passed but is now tied up in the courts.

In 2020, DeSantis advocated for stringent E-verify policies to assure a “legal workforce.” But to the governor’s dismay, the Legislature passed a more diluted bill on the employment eligibility program that required government employers and some private employers to use E-verify. Now the governor is pushing for universal E-verify use in the upcoming session.

If implemented on a wider scale, the move could be costly for employers and place unnecessary barriers to employment, Florida Immigrant Coalition federal campaign lead Yareliz Mendez-Zamora said.

Last year, DeSantis alluded to Florida’s controversial relocation of 50 mostly Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. He said he requested funds from the Legislature so when “the feds dump illegal aliens in Florida,” the state government could send them to states with sanctuary policies.

“As a state, we cannot be a party to what is effectively a massive human smuggling operation run by the federal government,” DeSantis said.


In his first State of the State address, DeSantis sought to bring Floridians together to support northwest Florida communities devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018. Now, the governor will have the same task ahead for southwest Florida after damage from Hurricane Ian last year.

(Video) Governor DeSantis to Deliver State of The State Address Tuesday

In 2020, DeSantis mentioned fortifying infrastructure to withstand floods better – although his statewide flooding resilience plan wouldn’t be announced until nearly two years later.

More needs to be done by the state government to slow some of the effects of climate change, said Sierra Club Florida Chapter director Emily Gorman.

Rep. Rick Roth, R-West Palm Beach, said the governor’s approach to climate change has worked well, empowering cities to apply for infrastructure grants. “The conservative approach to climate change is plan for it, is to put more dollars for infrastructure, try to figure out ways we can deal with it,” Roth said.

Water quality has been central to DeSantis’ discussion about the environment in most of his addresses. His Blue-Green Algae Task Force – made up of scientists from around the state – served as one of the governor’s go-to examples of his action on improving water quality.

The task force released a list of recommendations for restoring Florida waterways from blue-green algae. But nearly all of the recommendations have gone unfulfilled three years later, according to a report from a coalition of environmental groups.

Other environmental promises touted in DeSantis’ past addresses leaned heavily into Everglades restoration. In 2019, DeSantis cited replacing the entire board of directors for the South Florida Water Management District.

The board, which has a major impact on water quality in the Everglades, previously seemed to favor corporate agricultural interests but that’s changed, said Friends of the Everglades policy director Gil Smart.

“They’ve really been very forward looking in terms of the policies that they’ve adopted,” he said. “It’s made a big difference just in terms of moving us toward cleaner water.”

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached You can donate to support our studentshere.


What ethnicity is DeSantis? ›

DeSantis was born on September 14, 1978, in Jacksonville, the son of Karen DeSantis (née Rogers; her family name was originally Ruggiero before her father, Philip Ernest Rogers/Ruggiero, the son of Campanian parents who immigrated from Italy to the U.S., changed it) and Ronald Daniel DeSantis. He is Italian American.

How old is Ron De Santis? ›

How old is Casey Black? ›

Who were all the governors of Florida? ›

What does Santis mean? ›

gauche or socially inappropriate behavior, especially at a meal.

Where does the last name Santis come from? ›

Spanish (Santís): possibly a habitational name from a place called Santiz in Salamanca. This surname is most common in Mexico and Chile. Shortened form of Italian De Santis or Di Santis .

How many states have Republican governors? ›

The following is a list of the current governors of the states and territories of the United States. As of February 2023, there were 26 Republicans and 24 Democrats holding the office of governor in the states.

Who is Alligator Ron? ›

Alligator Ron Bergeron - Gladesman & Conservationist. Ron Bergeron was raised in South Florida, home to eight generations of his family where they lived and breathed a culture within the elements of nature.

Has Ron DeSantis been married before? ›

Who is Florida's first lady? ›

Casey DeSantis is the current first lady of Florida, assuming the position on January 8, 2019, as the wife of 46th and current Florida governor Ron DeSantis, with whom she has three children.

Does Ron DeSantis have children? ›

Ron DeSantis

How many times can you be governor in Florida? ›

How long does the Governor serve and can he or she serve more than one term? The governor holds the office for four years and can choose to run for reelection. The Governor is not eligible to serve more than eight years in any twelve-year period.

Has Florida had a female governor? ›

As of January 10, 2023, 18 states have never had a female governor: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Does Florida have term limits for governor? ›

The governors of the following states and territories are limited to two consecutive terms, but are eligible to run again after four years out of office: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, ...

What does Kimber name mean? ›

Kimber is a baby girl name of British origin. Derived from the English name Kimberly, Kimber is a nickname and first name meaning “Cyneburg's field,” which refers to a royal forest.

What language is De Santis? ›

DeSantis or De Santis is an Italian surname.

What does the name Léon mean? ›

Leon means "lion" in Greek. 1. Determined and independent, 1s are born leaders headed for success. Their charismatic personality means they have no trouble making new friends.

What is the most common surname in the world? ›

Yet there's no doubt about which surname is the most popular in the world: Wang. More than 106 million people have the surname Wang, a Mandarin term for prince or king. It's not too surprising that the top surname is Chinese, as China has the world's largest population.

What does the last name Morabito mean? ›

Italian (Sicily): nickname for a teetotaler Sicilian murabbitu from Arabic murābiṭ 'hermit' 'ascetic'.

What does Santos mean in the Bible? ›

The English translation of Santos is Saints.

What is Florida's ethnicity? ›

The state has attracted immigrants, particularly from Latin America. Florida's majority ethnic group are European Americans, with approximately 65% of the population identifying as White. National ethnic communities in the state include Cubans, who migrated en masse following the revolution in the mid 20th century.

What is Marco Rubio ethnicity? ›

Rubio is a Cuban American from Miami, Florida. After serving as a city commissioner for West Miami in the 1990s, he was elected to represent the 111th district in the Florida House of Representatives in 2000.

Who are ron DeSantis parents? ›

Ron DeSantis

What percent of Florida is black? ›

Female persons, percent 50.8%
Race and Hispanic Origin
White alone, percent 76.9%
Black or African American alone, percent(a) 17.0%
57 more rows

Why is Florida so Hispanic? ›

Florida's connections to the Hispanic world are deep, dating back centuries before the founding of the United States. The peninsula has long been home to waves of immigrants and exiles from Spain and Latin America. Not surprisingly, today Florida is home to the third largest Latino population in the country.

Are Floridians Southerners? ›

Being a part of the American South, Florida has also long been influenced by Southern culture. However, the culture in the southern half of Florida does not exhibit as much of the Southern culture that is found in North and Central Florida.

How many terms can a senator serve? ›

IV. Section-by-Section Analysis Section 1 This is the operative section that limits congressional terms to two terms in the Senate and to six terms in the House of Representatives.

What is Ted Cruz famous for? ›

Rafael Edward Cruz (/kruːz/; born December 22, 1970) is an American politician, attorney, and political commentator serving as the junior United States senator from Texas since 2013. A member of the Republican Party, Cruz was the Solicitor General of Texas from 2003 to 2008.

Who is the Republican senator from Florida? ›

The state is currently represented by Republicans Marco Rubio (serving since 2011) and Rick Scott (serving since 2019).

What happened to Christina DeSantis? ›

Christina DeSantis was just 30 when she died in London in 2015 after battling a sudden illness. Her British fiancé Stephan Pasiewicz was clutching her hand in hospital as she slipped away.

Who is the Governor of Florida? ›

Does Ron DeSantis have siblings? ›

Is DeSantis spanish or italian? ›

DeSantis or De Santis is an Italian surname.

What are the names of DeSantis Children? ›

Ron DeSantis

Does Governor DeSantis have a sister? ›


1. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers State of the State address
(ABC Action News)
2. FL Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking in Iowa
(First Coast News)
3. JUST IN: Trump Unveils Modified Nickname For Ron DeSantis In New Broadside
(Forbes Breaking News)
4. DeSantis Praises Military Service-Members And Veterans In Reagan Library Speech
(Forbes Breaking News)
5. Embattled Florida parents to America: You're next if DeSantis wins!
6. DeSantis' War On Free Speech Is Just White Grievance Politics On Steroids
(The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Carmelo Roob

Last Updated: 06/18/2023

Views: 5315

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Carmelo Roob

Birthday: 1995-01-09

Address: Apt. 915 481 Sipes Cliff, New Gonzalobury, CO 80176

Phone: +6773780339780

Job: Sales Executive

Hobby: Gaming, Jogging, Rugby, Video gaming, Handball, Ice skating, Web surfing

Introduction: My name is Carmelo Roob, I am a modern, handsome, delightful, comfortable, attractive, vast, good person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.