© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Get the latest coverage of the 2021 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Democrats: DeSantis' Priorities Don't Meet The Needs Of The People

man speaks in front of virtual background
The Florida Channel
State Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Broward County, gives the Democratic rebuttal

In a series of responses to the governor's State of the State address, Florida Democrats said DeSantis is spending too much time focusing on side issues that don’t address the concerns of Floridians affected by the pandemic.

Gov. Ron DeSantis painted a rosy picture of a Florida recovering from a year of illness, death, and shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic during his State of the State speech Tuesday.

The perspective on other side of the aisle was quite different.

Gary Farmer leads the Senate Democratic Caucus. The Ft. Lauderdale senator said DeSantis is spending too much time on bills popular with his conservative base — bills Farmer said target peaceful protestors.

"Despite the wide path of destruction COVID has cut in Florida, and the heavy toll it took in and on Floridians' lives,” Farmer said, ”the governor and Republican lawmakers have crafted legislation to muzzle our people and restrict our speech — instead of giving our health and our economy the attention that they so desperately need."

Farmer called the governor "insensitive and tone-deaf" to the needs of regular people during the pandemic, focusing instead on reopening businesses.

He outlined a few of the bills being introduced by Republican lawmakers.

"Anti-minimum wage. Anti-health insurance coverage. Anti-state pensions, hitting police, teachers, nurses and other public workers,” Farmer said. “Anti-vote by mail. And bills aimed at privatizing public schools and draining more public tax dollars for private schools that answer to no one.”

Agriculture Secretary Nikki Fried — Florida's only statewide elected Democrat — also said DeSantis' priorities are misplaced.

“The priorities of the citizens of our state are making sure that we are still wearing masks,” she said during a press conference at the Capitol. “That we are still social distancing. That we are protecting our environment. That we are making sure that food is accessible to everybody.”

Fried said the popular conservative is busy preparing a run for president.

“The governor's already looking to 2024. His eyes are already on what is next for his political future,” she said. “And he's not kept his eyes on Florida, where we need to go. And we're seeing that from the policies that he's pushing and the legislation that he's pushing. But he's focusing on his popularity, getting ready for a presidential run.”

Fried says DeSantis should pay more attention to giving schools and teachers the proper resources to fight the pandemic.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.