Ron DeSantis State of the State 0307 SCREENGRAB
DeSantis tells Florida 'You ain't seen nothing yet'
02:41 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Laying out his top priorities for a second term and a potential platform for a presidential run, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered a State of the State speech Tuesday that conspicuously avoided much of the divisive rhetoric that has fueled his political ascent but nevertheless signaled another round of cultural wars is coming in the weeks ahead.

DeSantis asserted that his landslide November victory was a “vindication” of his contentious agenda during his first term and a mandate to “shoot for the stars” and “swing for the fences” in the coming year. He encouraged lawmakers to “ignore all the background noise” as they tackle a lengthy list of priorities that are sure to enrage Democrats but animate future Republican primary voters.

“We find ourselves in Florida on the front lines in the battle for freedom,” he said. “Together, we have made Florida the nation’s most desired destination and we have produced historic results. But now’s not the time to rest on our laurels.”

The remarks laid the groundwork for what is expected to be a breathless sprint by the GOP-controlled legislature to rack up policy wins that could form a platform to launch DeSantis’ highly anticipated bid for the White House.

DeSantis notably refrained from using the word “woke” in his remarks – a staple of the political speeches he has delivered in recent months – and wasn’t nearly as combative toward President Joe Biden. He largely focused on more agreeable topics like improving education, alleviating traffic congestion and championing truck drivers, police officers and nurses.

But he also chastised the “biomedical security state” that required Covid-19 vaccines and vowed to permanently ban mandates related to coronavirus mitigation, an outlier position that helped DeSantis emerge as a conservative star during the pandemic.

“We defied the experts, we bucked the elites, we ignored the chatter,” DeSantis said. “We did it our way, the Florida way.”

DeSantis has urged or endorsed proposals touching every facet of the culture wars: restricting abortion, allowing concealed firearms in public without training and universal school choice. There are bills targeting drag shows, liberal protections and so-called “woke”-banking.

Ron DeSantis State of the State 0307 SCREENGRAB

Moments before DeSantis’ remarks began, legislation was filed that would ban abortion after six weeks except in cases of rape and incest and make it illegal to send abortion medications through the mail. DeSantis in his speech nodded to supporting efforts to “protect life” but avoided specifics. He also signaled support for legislative efforts to follow steps taken by his administration to ban treatments for transgender children.

“Our schools must deliver a good education, not a political indoctrination,” DeSantis said. “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.”

Many of the proposals are aimed at classrooms. In a bill addressing K-12 schools, teachers cannot be told they must use a student’s preferred name and pronouns and discussing gender identity and sexual orientation and gender identity would be prohibited topics until high school. On college campuses, gender studies would be banned, as would diversity and equity programs, and hiring decisions will fall into the hands of board members largely appointed by DeSantis.

DeSantis has said he will formally decide on whether to jump into the 2024 race after the legislature completes its work, a timeline that would mean an announcement in May or June. But DeSantis is already taking steps to build out a political team for a potential run and recently huddled with donors, elected Republicans and conservative influencers in Palm Beach, where they plotted strategy and policy in former President Donald Trump neighborhood.

His out-of-state travel has also picked up. While lawmakers meet over the next 60 days, DeSantis is expected to spend the next couple months on the road promoting his new book, “The Courage to Be Free.” DeSantis is scheduled to travel to Alabama on Thursday before heading to the early nominating states of Iowa and Nevada this weekend.

DeSantis’ agenda is expected to face little resistance in the Republican-led legislature, where lawmakers have repeatedly succumbed to political pressure from the popular governor in the past and appear closely aligned heading into the upcoming session.

Indeed, in the hour before DeSantis’ remarks, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo told her members she considered DeSantis “truly America’s governor.”

“The eyes of the nation are on Florida this year,” she said. “Let’s show America how it’s done.”

CNN’s Kit Maher contributed to this report.