FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke in Fort Walton Beach Thursday at Props Craft Brewery & Taproom. The event had signage for “We Support Our Military.” The governor signed six pieces of legislation in support of the state’s active duty military and veterans.
DeSantis was joined by Adjutant General of the Florida National Guard Major General James O. Eifert, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs Major General James S. “Hammer” Hartsell, and Florida Department of Education Senior Chancellor Henry Mack.
Referring to the new Top Gun: Maverick movie, DeSantis said he had not seen the film yet, but that people were more excited for the U.S. Navy and Air Force as the movie was out. He took the moment to joke that people were surprised when movies that “were not overwhelmingly woke” did well at the box office, before speaking about his time in the Navy, briefly.
Then, he spoke about the recent news that someone had tried to kill Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“If you look at some of the things going on in this country, you had some lunatic that was trying to assassinate Justice Kavanaugh, and this is something that is very very troubling,” DeSantis said. “You’ve got a lot of people who whip this up, you have people like Chuck Schumer talk about them facing the whirlwind. They have lifetime appointments, what whirlwind are you talking about? So, you’re doing that and I think there’s a lot of really really crazy people out there unfortunately that really get consumed with ideology. These are people who don’t have a religious foundation, or any type of relationship with god, so they turn to radical politics as what they’re going to do. I saw it when I was in Congress, when we had a Bernie Sanders supporter shoot up the baseball practice for the Congressional Baseball, and that was definitely an attempted assassinate—shot Steve Scalise, some other people. But he was trying to assassinate Republican members of Congress. He was doing it for political purposes. So you had this guy yesterday was saying he wanted to go and kill Kavanaugh because he was concerned about court decisions that may be rendered. So he was trying to change the operation of one branch of our government, through political assassination. So they’ve arrested him and he needs to be brought to justice, but the silence has been deafening, from our media outlets. They do not want to talk about it. Honestly, a lot of them have some really screwed up priorities as we see almost every day. I can only imagine if the shoe was reversed, they would be going berserk if you had some Trump supporter doing anything even approaching that.”
DeSantis said it was important that regardless of politics, everyone should say there was no place for that type of behavior in American society.
“There’s no place for that type of behavior in American society. You don’t get every outcome in politics or in law, you’re not going to get everything that you want all the time, and that’s just the way it works,” DeSantis said. “Sometimes it can be frustrating, I can tell you we’ve done very well in Florida, but every single election nationally doesn’t go the way I want. Lord knows they have rendered court decisions throughout the many decades that have been head scratchers, but that doesn’t give you the right to take the law into your own hands and attempt something of that magnitude.”
The governor said he had not heard a “sufficient” response to the attempt on the Justice’s life.
“I hope they throw the book at this guy, but you know what they need to do? They need to get these people out of those neighborhoods,” DeSantis said. “They’re bringing mobs in front of the Supreme Court Justices’ homes, purely for intimidation purposes. And there’s a time and place and a manner for people to protest, but to go into a residential community and to be trying to intimidate folks, is not the appropriate thing.”
DeSantis said he believed it may even be a violation of federal law, and wondered aloud why the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland did not appear “very concerned” about the attempt on Kavanaugh’s life.
After saying he hoped U.S. Congress would pass laws for additional security to provide to the justices, DeSantis referred back to the previously proposed, then canceled, Disinformation Bureau of the Department of Homeland Security. He said the public blowback had been what made the federal government changed its mind, and said that he had been correct that they were trying to “enlist massive Silicon Valley corporations” to do what the government “cannot do directly” and that the bureau should be dismantled, and that the government should not tell him what is or is not disinformation.
“All they’re trying to do is stifle dissent, they don’t want people to criticize. They don’t want people to show why a lot of the things they’re advocating with are not actually based in fact,” DeSantis said. “I think it’s very important to maintain voices to fight back and be able to speak the truth. We’ve been on this from the beginning, the fact that they stood down is a small victory.”
He said he thought the federal government would try to regroup rather than abandon the idea entirely. Then he turned his speech to the reason for his appearance in Fort Walton Beach.
“We have six pieces of legislation that we’re going to sign today that’s going to show and demonstrate Florida’s commitment to our veterans,” DeSantis said, saying that over the years the state had provided support to active military and veterans, and the new legislation would continue those efforts.
DeSantis focused on legislation that would provide scholarships to the families of deceased or retired veterans, and additional funds for programs that would give active military more support for higher education. He also mentioned the reestablishment of the Florida State Guard, promising more announcements soon, as well as that applications had already started coming in.
“Part of what precipitated this was you had the federal government imposing these mandates on the military as a whole, but even on the national guard, which they have some administrative control over,” DeSantis said. “We wanted to make sure we had our guard that could perform similar functions but would not be captive to some of these misguided federal mandates. They are kicking people out of the military who served with honor and distinction over these COVDI shots. And a lot of these people that they’re kicking out have already recovered from COVID. A lot of them have reasons why they’re not doing the shots. So they say they have to kick people out to maintain good order and discipline. You are harming good order and discipline by not standing behind people that have fought for this country.”
He said it was a mistake, and the zeal the military has pursued it has concerned him as a U.S. military veteran. DeSantis also mentioned that the state’s anti-discrimination law over COVID-19 vaccines had been put to use recently with the Special Olympics, referring to his announcement of a reversal of vaccination policy in Orlando last week.
Turning back to military and the Florida State Guard, he said the reestablishment would allow veterans and military to serve without having to have vaccine mandates, allowing them to remain in Florida as “force multipliers.”
“We have one of the lowest guard to citizen ratios in the country,” DeSantis said. “We’re a large state and we have a lot of need for things like disaster response, unfortunately.” He said while the state was prepared for a potentially active hurricane season, he hoped they would not need to, saying it was a fact of life in the state.
Then, DeSantis said that they would be able to expand the number of people that could serve, but that the Florida Guard service would allow people who had been marginalized over vaccinations to serve after the federal mandates.
“I’m signing six bills. First one is HB 45, and that is going to expand educational opportunities for disabled veterans, making sure they get tuition assistance, because oftentimes, availability of assistance through the GI bill is not sufficient, to fully cover their tuition. We’re going to close this gap with the bill, and it’s going to make a big difference,” DeSantis said. “SB 430, I’ll be signing. Which will increase and enhance Florida’s efforts to make sure that the children of active duty service members are able to transition in terms of education appropriately with seamless school placement, enrollment, records transfers, and verification of graduation authorities and requirements. We don’t want somebody to be transferred from Virginia or Texas or California and then get mired in bureaucracy and red tape, and I think this will let us do better in that regard.”
He also said he would be signing Senate Bill 514, which will allow state agencies to substitute military service for job qualification experience, rather than requiring school certifications or diplomas, “magic pieces of paper,” to get jobs. DeSantis said he’d rather have someone who has served eight years in the military than someone who “went $100,000 into debt to get a degree in zombie studies.”
DeSantis said he’d also be signing SB 896, which would help veterans access jobs and education by using their military experience to teach in Florida schools before they get teaching degrees, by allowing them to use their time in the service to get a temporary educator certificate, under the mentorship of a certified teacher.
Additionally, DeSantis said he would be signing SB 562, which requires the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to expedite occupational license applications to all active duty military spouses to allow families moving to Florida to transfer more easily between states with licensing requirements. The governor also said that he would be signing SB 438, which updates the state’s definitions of uniformed service to include the United States Space Force.
“Given everything that Florida is doing in space, mostly commercial space now, but we think the U.S. Space Force will have an increasing presence in Florida,” DeSantis said. “I can also announce today that CareerSource Florida and our workforce agencies will dedicate $20 million in targeted workforce training supports for our veterans with a focus on high-demand industries, including aviation, aerospace, and defense.”
The governor said it was meaningful to give support to the country’s military service members and their families, and that despite it not being the case across all of the United States, at least Florida was committed to doing so.
The gathered speakers, Mack, Adj. Gen. Eifert, addressed the crowd, thanking the governor for his support of the military and Florida’s service members.
“I’d like to thank the Legislature and Governor DeSantis for all they’ve done for the Soldiers and Airmen of the Florida National Guard,” Eifert said. “These bills will go a long way to help our Citizen Soldiers and their spouses have opportunities for meaningful employment. Solid career opportunities lead to a well-rounded and ready force, and a stable home environment prepares our Guardsmen and their families for deployments, to include disaster response.”
Then the governor signed the six bills into law.