Sep 19, 2023

DeSantis Press Conference 9/18/23 Transcript

DeSantis Press Conference 9/18/23 Transcript
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DeSantis Press Conference 9/18/23. Read the transcript here.

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Governor DeSantis (00:07):

Thank you. Thanks so much. God bless you guys. Thank you. Thanks for coming out. It’s great to be back here in Duval County. Great to be here with a lot of the city’s finest from the sheriff’s office in Jacksonville as well as the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, and we’re really appreciative of all that you all do to help the community. We also have Senator Clay Yarborough, and then of course we do have the Sheriff TK Waters and Chief Keith Powers from the fire rescue. Then we’re going to hear from Officer Alia Calaswet who works for JSO, and she’s going to talk about why we’re here today.

I think most people now the secret is out about Florida, that we take pride in our first responders. We take pride. We take pride in the people that serve in law enforcement, and we’ve been willing to stand up for them even when they were coming under attack throughout different parts of our society, unfortunately. We stood up for what was right here in Florida, and then of course, we’ve seen the great work that our fire rescue and EMTs have done on an everyday basis, but even in terms of some of the things that are more atypical, whether it’s the Surfside Tower collapse that we dealt with down in South Florida, whether it’s responding to hurricanes, those are the folks who were there serving their community. We understand that it’s an important vocation and we are going to continue to stand by them. Part of that is people like me saying that, which is important. I think not enough people say it. But it also matters what you do to show that.

We put our money where our mouth is here in the state of Florida. If you look at what we’ve done just over the last few years, we have solidified this state as being a law and order state. When there was a rage around the country, that’s important. When there was a rage around the country to try to defund police, we enacted legislation that prohibits local governments from defunding police in the state of Florida. When you saw cities burning down, Minneapolis, these other places with the riots of the summer of 2020, we said it’s not happening here. We had guard called out, state law enforcement. We work with our locals, but we also enacted legislation to have stiffer penalties for rioting and looting. You can’t have a situation where it’s like Portland, where they can just riot. They get arrested, they’ll slap them on the wrist, take their mugshot, then they do it again. In Florida, if you riot, if you loot, if you engage in any type of mob violence, you are not getting a slap on the wrist, you’re going to jail.

We’ve increased penalties for people that are dealing fentanyl, particularly when they’re targeting minors, and they’ve even put it in things like Halloween candy to try to go after our youth. It’s really, really disgusting to see that and we’re treating them like the murderers that they are, and that’s important to do.

We’ve also seen a rash of district attorneys elected throughout the country who get elected on a platform to ignore laws that they disagree with, and that has caused society to decay in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and really the inmates ended running the asylum. We had two of those prosecutors in Florida who said they weren’t going to or didn’t faithfully enforce the law, and I removed them from their posts. They are gone.

We’ve even stepped in to help the border crisis. We’ve sent Florida law enforcement personnel to help Texas with what is going on at the southern border and millions and millions of people illegally coming into our country, massive amounts of fentanyl pouring in. That is leading to deaths in every community in this country. It’s not just a border problem. Every community is becoming a border community because of these policies, and so we’ve sent…

The thing about it is, and I’ve been able at this point to meet with dozens of angel moms, and these are mothers who’ve lost kids to drug overdose, almost always some type of fentanyl or opioid. What you find with those stories is there are definitely instances where someone is addicted and the addiction ends up getting the most of them. It does happen. That’s tragic. In Florida, we’ve actually instituted the CORE program, Coordinated Opioid Response program, that’s actually working to help people along the way with that because it’s a difficult problem.

But what you find when talking to these mothers is their kids were, and these are teenagers, early 20s, and maybe they’re stressed out, they think they’re taking a Xanax, and maybe they shouldn’t have been doing that, but it’s laced with fentanyl, and so they die right then and there. Gone. That’s a tragic situation and it’s happening all over this country because the government is allowing it to happen. We’ve pushed back on that. We’ve sent people to help. We’ve even helped transport illegal aliens to places like Martha’s Vineyard because those people want these policies and that’s not right.

The result of all that we’ve done is the crime rate in Florida is at a 50 year low, overall crime is down 10% year over year, statewide murder, burglary, robbery, all down year over year. Part of the reason we have that is because we have a lot of good people who are out there risking their lives to keep our community safe, and they have the support not just of the state of Florida, but in local communities all throughout our state, which is really, really important.

We’ve also continued to press forward on the momentum. We recently signed legislation that kneecaps the ability of judges to institute so-called bail reform where they let people out without posting bail. What ends up happening is a lot of these guys commit more crimes when they get let out, and then police have to go arrest them again and risk their lives again when they should have never had to do that in the first place. We also limited the ability of judges to give easy sentences and release early from prison, and we enacted the death penalty for pedophiles in Florida, and we’re challenging the Supreme Court on that, but it’s the right thing to do.

Now, one of the things we did a few years ago is, as you saw the rush to cut police budgets and defund police, we wanted to not only prevent that from happening in Florida, but we wanted to go a step better and actually show that we’re not defunding police, we’re going to be there and support police as well as our other first responders. And so we started the recognition program in 2020 where we did $1,000 bonuses to every single sworn law enforcement officer, firefighter, and EMT in the entire state of Florida. That’s a lot of people in a state this big.

When we would deliver the checks and then I’d be out in the community, people would come up to me who received checks. Look, we’re in an era of really bad inflation. The grocery costs are probably twice of what they were

Governor DeSantis (08:00):

…were three or four years ago. You talk to people now and what they have to… And I hear about this a lot from people because I’m out and about. You go in, they start ringing up the groceries and it becomes so high they’ve got to take things out of their grocery cart now. And these are people that are working hard. These are people that are earning a living and they’re falling further and further behind. Affording a new home with interest rates over 7%. Good luck with that. You better be prepared to have a mortgage payment twice what you’re used to. Affording a new car. They’re up 70%, 60, 70%, in the last three or four years.

And so, this has been a big problem for our country. Obviously, we’ve taken steps in Florida to mitigate that, not just with what we’re doing with first responders. We now have no tax. Permanent, tax-free for all baby items. Diapers, wipes, formula, everything you need to raise babies is now completely tax-free in Florida. We enacted, at the beginning of the year, a toll relief program for our commuters. If you’re commuting and you’re on that SunPass, you’re getting a 50% rebate every month for your tolls as a commuter. And so, that’s saving people a lot of money and, in some parts of the state, it’s kind of more taxing with the tolls than others. There’s some parts of the state where people are paying 100, 150, even $200 a month in tolls because they’re driving around doing a lot of stuff. We were able to do that. We did a whole bunch of other tax relief. No, it’s important and it makes a difference for people. We did a whole bunch of other tax relief. We’re proud of that. But, basically, we want people to have relief from the inflation and the rising prices. Part of the reason why we wanted to do it is because we wanted to give first responders a little bit of breathing room.

But, I’ll tell you, as nice as that is, and as important as that is, people would come up to me and they never said it was about the money. Just the fact that you’re getting a check from the state of Florida as a token of appreciation. People know that you’re in a state that values what you do. And one of the reasons no one wants to join these police forces in other parts of the country is because it’s become a thankless job when they don’t get support for their community.

We, in Florida, have done it the opposite, where we’re showing that these are noble professions and it’s something that you can have a great life doing and you will get the esteem of your community if you’re doing it. And so, we have, for the third year in a row, authorized $1,000 bonuses for all of our police, fire and EMTs. We’re going to be hand delivering the first 40 of those checks right here today. The rest are going to be in the mail for people.

We have with us today 25 members of JSO, 15 members of USAR Task Force Five, which is located here in Jacksonville, and we’ve got a lot of people, of course, at Jack’s Fire and Rescue who are certified. We had the USAR team recently deployed for Search and Rescue for Hurricane Idalia. Fortunately, that was a very efficient operation. Most of the people that had the surge decided to get out and heed the warnings, and so we were able to get through that.

Now, there’s a lot we’re going to have to do over the next weeks, months, and even years in some of the really hard hit areas but, in terms of that initial response, very good. We had so many people there. I want to thank everyone who did that but that’s what they do. They step up and do it. We are going to hand out the checks. If you’re not here today, you will get one in the mail and the not too distant future, so thank you for what you’re doing. And they are checks that net you $1000. The taxes are paid for as well in this, so you don’t have to get hit with the taxes.

And so, this is one of the things we’ve done. The other thing we’ve done is we’ve enacted a recruitment program where we give $5,000 signing bonuses for new recruits to Florida law enforcement agencies and that’s any police department, any sheriff’s department, any state law enforcement agency. You come in and you’re not previously in law enforcement in Florida, you do. We’ve used that to recruit from places like Chicago and New York but we also made it, and it doesn’t get as much attention, most of the bonuses have actually gone to young people who are choosing this as a vocation. We understood it’s important. Yes, morale’s low in other parts of the country, we’re going to capitalize on that. It was funny. I had an opportunity to go to ground zero to commemorate 22nd anniversary of 9/11. My wife and I got invited by some of the 9/11 families and it was a really moving thing, very emotional to be there, and I had never been there for this before. And so, I’m doing that, and then, one, it occurred to me how many people that served that day and risked their lives, how many of them eventually have moved to Florida? A lot of them have moved to Florida. Probably outside of the New York City area, we have more 9/11 veterans than anyone by far.

But then, talking to some of the folks that are there now, I think I took a picture with some of the fire guys. There’s like 10 of them and I’m like, you guys are all going to be Florida residents at some point and half of them said they already had homes in Florida. And these guys are relatively young looking guys, in their thirties and forties, and they already had that. We’re proud of being able to recruit people from other states because I think what people see when they come here, and we’ve talked to a lot of people that have come from NYPD, Seattle, these places, and I’ve not found anyone that’s regretted it and 100% of them, I think, have said that they feel much more appreciated in the state of Florida than they did for wherever they were. And so, that’s something that’s really meaningful.

But this also applies to these $5,000 bonuses. If you’re coming into police academy, you’re doing the normal training as a Floridian and you’re choosing to go, you also get the 5,000. I think that’s really important because we want our young people to look favorably on careers in law enforcement and, in Florida, you’re going to be able to do that in a way where you’re going to have support from your communities. We just launched, I think, billboards outside of Chicago to saying to the cops, hey, come down here. They’re actually… They got rid of cash bail, so that’s not going to be good, and they’re actually going to allow people who are in the country illegally to be sworn as officers in the… How does that make any sense with that?

I think some people just doing it wrong. We’re going to do it right and we’re here to be able to say thanks for all you’ve done, not just over the past year, but for your entire careers. We appreciate it in the state of Florida. We’re proud to be able to deliver, for the third year in a row, these good bonus checks and we’re going to hear from some folks first, and then we’re going to be able to pass them out. First, we’re going to hear from our great Sheriff, TK Waters. Come on up here.

TK Waters (14:59):

Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here, sir. I want to thank Governor DeSantis for your steadfast support for our law enforcement community. In a moment in history in which the anti-police fringe is more vocal than ever, Florida continues to be the gold standard in this country for defending the rule of law. Because of the bold politics from state and local leadership, our Governor, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is capable of innovating and growing our agency, so that we can make this community safer and a more secure place for all of our citizens.

Police officers are public servants. We raise our hands to serve our communities knowing that we may be bartering our very lives in protection of our fellow citizens. This is a risk that we all willingly accept as public servants and would serve its hearts. I cannot tell you how meaningful this funding is to the individual officers and their families who comprise our agency. Florida police officers know that their Governor and their leadership believes in our mission, recognizes our sacrifice,

TK Waters (16:00):

… and are willing to do whatever it takes to make Florida the most law-enforcement friendly state in the United States of America. Florida is at a 50-year low in crime and will continue to be a law-and-order state because it invests in those of us who promote safety and security. I once again want to thank Governor DeSantis and our state legislators for their strong leadership in providing us the tools and resources we need to get the job done.

Governor DeSantis (16:24):


TK Waters (16:25):

Thank you, Governor.

Governor DeSantis (16:25):

All right.

Speaker 1 (16:33):

Governor, I too want to thank you for recognizing these men and women, not only from JFRD, from JSO. We’ve got men and women in this community that serve. They don’t never know if they’re going to go home. The governor talked about 9/11 just being recent, the memorial. If you think about this for a minute, there were 343 firefighters that got up that morning, went to work, kissed their families goodbye, and had no idea that was going to be the last time they saw their families. Their families had no idea that was going to be the last time they would see their loved ones.

We’ve got people in this community, in our first responder groups, in JSO and JFRD, that serve every day and they don’t know if they’re going home. So, governor, the bonus means a lot and the supports you’re giving JFRD, just in this recent budget that’s just started in July, the governor put almost a million dollars in that budget for our urban search and rescue team. That equipment is what’s used in what we do here at emergency road access team. When this storm just went through over in the Big Bend region, we deployed over there. Our folks deployed JSO and JFRD and went over there and knocked those roads open so that our searchers could get in there and look for people that were either trapped or missing.

Governor, thank you for what you’re doing for this group of men and women. I remember what it was like when I was young and when Robin and I first got married and we had young children and the need for a thousand dollars is a lot. It helps those first responders, but also what you’ve done with the tax on the baby items, that’s big too when you’re a young family, so thank you for what you’re doing.

Governor DeSantis (18:03):


Speaker 2 (18:10):

Good afternoon, everyone. Well, first I’d like to start off by saying I am proud to be an American and I love being a Floridian. My mother, she was born and raised here in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville is where both my parents met. I guess you could say I’ve got roots here. I’m honored to serve in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, but more importantly, we are truly blessed to have a governor who is pro-law-enforcement.

Since the launch of the first responders program, my family and I have truly benefited from the funds that Governor DeSantis has rewarded us with. In the past, I’ve used my check on daycare costs and necessities that my family would need. I can tell you as an officer, feeling appreciated really goes a long way, especially on the days that are not easy. With my $1,000 check this year, I’ll be able to put that money towards my child who is in need of dental work, so it honestly couldn’t have come at a better time. Governor, thank you for your support and everything you do because I cannot even fathom the weight of your responsibilities. God bless you and your family.

Governor DeSantis (19:11):

God bless you.

Speaker 2 (19:12):

Thank you, sir.

Governor DeSantis (19:18):

Thank you. We’re going to do them? All right. We’re going to do the announcing. All right. Come on over here. All right. We’re starting with PK first. We’ll start with our speaker, AALIYAH AKALA SWEAT; Alec ORELIO, David BUIZ Cruz, Darryl Barnes, Douglas CONNELL, Sean Crawford, Harris DEDICK, Vicky FLORENCE, Michael Gunson, Savita HARPU, Jonathan Ira, Christopher Jackson, Nicholas Jones, Ezekiel Kelly, Robert Kinder Jr., Carlos Lampkin, Nathaniel LIDLE, Christopher Miller, Elaine NOSANT, Zachary REZINDES, Garrin Robertson, Timothy Robinson Jr., Mary Singleton, Jabez Valde, and Elijah Wilcox. All right. Kristen ACUNA, Sarah Daniels, Ryan ECKLEROTH, James Hardwick, Patrick Hernandez, Caitlin Hopkins, Bradley Judah, Dwayne Lee, Fred McMillan, Donald Murray, Joshua PETTYHOME, Mark Roberts, Dalton Robertson, Richard Santos, Timothy YAN. All right. Well, hopefully you guys can use that well, and we’re excited to be able to have delivered for three years in a row on that. It’s very meaningful for our state to be able to stand up and do what’s right for the people that protect and serve, so God bless you all. Okay. We can take some questions. Let me do back there.

Speaker 4 (22:28):

Governor, the 2024 session is just around the corner. Lawmakers are getting back to work starting tomorrow. Can you give us an idea of what your priorities are going to be for that session? There’s obviously a lot of accomplished last year. Wondering what more can you do?

Governor DeSantis (22:42):

We’ll do more. We’re going to have some announcements coming up. I have made the point publicly, and this is true: everything I said I would do during the campaign, I’ve done. I did everything I said I would do. Doesn’t mean there’s not more to do. There’s always more to do, and so we will be doing that, and so we’re working with them over probably the next weeks. We will be rolling out some good stuff, so stay tuned. But, yes: we were fortunate to have been able to accomplish a lot, and that puts us in a good spot.

Speaker 3 (23:16):

Governor, back in 2017, you spoke up at the House Judiciary Committee. You had told me that you were unhappy with leadership, house leadership, at the time when you were in Congress. They wouldn’t prosecute Democrats who were doing maybe illegal stuff, but also they weren’t supporting President Trump at the time. What is your take on the fact that Speaker McCarthy now who was leadership back then, doesn’t think that you’re fit to lead [inaudible 00:23:42]?

Governor DeSantis (23:42):

Well, look: I would say I think that if you look at what’s happened with DC Republicans, they worked very closely … Look: Donald Trump, he supported Kevin McCarthy very strongly for speaker. I don’t think he would’ve won the speaker vote. Donald Trump was instrumental

Governor DeSantis (24:00):

And him earning that speaker’s gavel, and they worked hand in glove really throughout his whole presidency. They were on the same team on every major spending bill that came down the pike, and they ended up together adding $7.8 trillion to our national debt. Never in a four-year period has that much been added than what they did together. And so he said that we’re different. We are different because in Florida we run budget surpluses. We’ve paid down almost 25% of our state’s debt just since I’ve been governor. All the debt, all the way up, for all of Florida’s history, we’ve knocked off almost 25% of it. So it’s a much different approach to where we’re doing it right. We have the number one rated economy in the country, we’ve cut taxes, we’ve expanded school choice, and we’ve delivered in a way that has made the state sustainable.

I am not somebody who the DC establishment wants to see up there. There’s no question about that, because they know that a lot of things will be changing if I’m there. And look, I would just also point out that we in Florida have a right to expect that they get some stuff done for us, like they said they would when they campaigned because Florida was instrumental in them even having the majority to begin with. This was supposed to be a big red wave in 2022. You had probably the most favorable conditions that Republicans have had in a midterm election since 1946. People were expecting a massive tsunami because inflation was terrible, Biden’s unpopular, all the problems that we’ve seen. Nobody’s happy with the direction of the country, and that’s tailor-made for the opposition party to be able to sweep into Washington DC.

Instead, the only reason they even got the majority is because the governor candidate in New York overperformed and because we delivered a red tsunami in Florida that gave them an extra four seats. That’s the story of the midterm. If you take that out, the Democrats would’ve held on to the House of Representatives. So Florida did its part, we showed how you can win, and we want to see some results as a result of that. But I’m not somebody who’s ever going to be the favorite of the DC establishment. You know what? I wear that as a badge of honor. Yes. Yes.

Speaker 5 (26:27):

[inaudible 00:26:26]. What are your thoughts on Biden’s comments to Sheriff Waters after the Dollar General shooting about white supremacy being the most dangerous domestic terror threatening America?

Governor DeSantis (26:37):

Well, I thought what TK said, I mean, I think TK said it very well, and I appreciated his comments on that. When things like this happen, we should be rallying together and we should all be unified to say this is wrong, this is evil. And it doesn’t matter your party, it doesn’t matter any of the nonsense. We’ve got to all come together and get on the same page. And I think this community, by and large, did that. But I do think you just have some people that anytime something happens, if they can advance their political agenda, then that’s what they look to do. And that’s just wrong.

And so I think the sheriff’s done a great job. I think that he hit the points very appropriately. At the state of Florida, we’ve worked locally with both them and with Edward Waters College. We were able to arrange security funding within a few days of that. We turned that around. We also helped with the charity for the funeral expenses because look, this is something that I think was bad, not just for Jacksonville, for the whole state of Florida, and we want to speak in one voice on that. But don’t try to politicize it. Don’t try to use your agenda on the backs of tragedy. That’s just not the way I think things need to operate.

Speaker 6 (27:55):

Sounds like the [inaudible 00:27:57] president maybe is thinking healthcare will be one of her big priorities this-

Governor DeSantis (28:00):

Well, I can tell you that is true. I’ve talked, spoken to her. We’re going to work together on some healthcare stuff. Yeah, we did some great stuff in healthcare last year. We did a build to reign in these pharmacy benefit managers. So what that is basically, and the whole issue of these prescription drugs, which is a total disaster, there are these middlemen that basically obscure the costs, they pocket money, and there’s a whole bunch of inefficiencies where basically the consumer pays more and then they get very rich off that. And it’s not only bad for the consumer, it’s also bad for individual family owned pharmacies because it comes out of there. And you want to be able to go to your local pharmacists, somebody you know, not necessarily have to be subservient to some corporate conglomerate.

And so we did some of the boldest reforms in the country. In fact, when I’m out of state, people come up to me thanking me for doing that. And so that’s really what it’s all about. How do you deliver healthcare in a way that’s more affordable for people? Federal government does a lot to make this more expensive. You also have the big drug companies make it more expensive. But ultimately, if we want to have good healthcare, and I don’t think a state can do this all, I think you do need the feds to come in and start to streamline this, but right now, we have an iron triangle where you have big pharma, big insurance companies, and big government and the patients in the back of the bus on this. The doctor patient relationship is now secondary to all those big institutions trying to exert themselves and exert their will, and that’s not been good for healthcare costs, it’s not been good for healthcare quality, and it’s not been good for the patient experience. And so anything we can do to help with that, we’re going to want to be doing that 100%. Yes.

Speaker 7 (29:44):

Governor, very nice suit you’re wearing today. But some may say you’re a little overdressed to go to Capitol Hill now. [inaudible 00:29:51]-

Governor DeSantis (29:51):

Oh my gosh. Did you guys hear? The US Senate just eliminated its dress code because you got this guy from Pennsylvania who’s got a lot of problems. I mean, let’s just be honest. How he got elected? Well, I mean, he got elected because they didn’t want the alternative, but he wears sweatshirts and hoodies and shorts, and that’s his thing. So he would campaign in that, which is your prerogative, right? I mean, if that’s what you want to do. But to show up in the United States Senate with that and not have the decency to put on proper attire, I think it’s disrespectful to the body. And I think the fact that the Senate changed the rules to accommodate that, I think speaks very poorly to how they consider that. Look, we need to be lifting up our standards in this country, not dumbing down our standards in this country and this is an example why.

All right, everybody. God bless you. Thank you. Appreciate it.

Speaker 8 (30:50):

[inaudible 00:30:52].

Governor DeSantis (30:52):

Oh, photo. Oh, good. Okay.

Oh, wow. [inaudible 00:30:57].

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