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DeSantis Lays Out Vision, Talks First Moves As Governor During 'Thought Leaders' Luncheon

Ryan Dailey

Governor-elect Ron DeSantis held a “Thought Leaders Luncheon” Monday ahead of his inauguration, inviting a panel of Republican politicians to share their vision for the state going forward.

DeSantis expressing faith in his colleagues, some of whom joined him to discuss Florida’s future.

“We in Florida have legislative leaders who are mindful of the core principles that lead to a positive society,” DeSantis said.

The panel included DeSantis’ Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, State Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva. The group kicked off by addressing environmental issues. The question? How to address the state’s most pressing challenges, and improve its natural assets. Republican State Senator Wilton Simpson suggests expansion of the state’s principle conservation program.

“When I think of the environmental progress we’ve made in the last three or four years – if we continue down the road of restoring our springs, and the Everglades, as we’ve been working very hard — science-based solutions,” Simpson said. “I think there’s room for – last year we did $100 million on the Florida Forever program, maybe expand that some for those critical corridors and linkages. And then continue to spend additional resources on our springs.”

Panel members also discussed ideas for growing jobs in the Sunshine State. Senate President Bill Galvano, like several others on the all-Republican panel, heralded vocational programs.

“We need to have a nexus between what we are teaching our students and what the opportunity is that is out in the state. And at all levels – K-12 – but especially in our technical colleges and state college system. These are the institutions that are part of the community,” Galvano said. “The ones we had designed at the beginning to respond to workforce needs.”

Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM
From left: Republican State Representative Chris Sprowls, Florida Senate President Bill Galvano and Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez took part in incoming Governor Ron DeSantis' "Thought Leaders Luncheon" Monday.

Following the panel, DeSantis listed some of his first priorities out of the gate. He told members of the media his administration will be doing a “big rollout” of environmental policies in the days following his inauguration Tuesday.

DeSantis says he will appoint the first of three new State Supreme Court Justices on Wednesday. The former Congressman told the crowd his pick will be one that won’t legislate from the bench.

I think both the Executive and the Legislative branches in Florida have had a lot of frustration with that third branch of government – the Judiciary – constantly usurping more and more legislative power over the years,” DeSantis said. “Well that ends tomorrow, and we will fix that.”

Nuñez calls DeSantis’ appointment of the judges “the most important thing for the future of this state that we have ever seen.” DeSantis says he has already interviewed all 11 nominees.

Asked if he plans to discontinue the state’s appeal on smokeable medical marijuana, DeSantis said he will make an announcement within the first two weeks of taking office. While he wasn’t specific about the announcement, DeSantis said he is “not committed” to upholding the ban on smokeable marijuana.

I think at the end of the day, when the people speak on these things, we want to implement their will. I don’t think that’s been done fully,” DeSantis told reporters. “So, we are going to be taking actions with medical marijuana that are consistent with what I said in the campaign. It was a 72 percent issue.”

The incoming governor also says helping the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Michael in North Florida is high on his list.