JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke in Jacksonville, alongside legislative leaders Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner. The event was focused on a legislative proposal to reform all state insurance litigation, in a similar style to what was done for property insurance in December.
DeSantis noted that when he appeared at events with both lawmakers, it meant typically they were proposing new laws.
The governor spoke about how laws were currently set up to benefit lawyers, not Floridians, criticizing the number of signs for law firms visible on the interstate and in various cities across Florida. He said some of the “litigation climate” in Florida was due to “activist justices” and that Florida’s property insurance reform had focused on the number of legal claims and insurance litigation due to the impact it had on the state’s insurance market.
“There are things in the law that are trying to create more opportunities to bring cases,” DeSantis said. “If somebody is harmed, you go, you should be able to get compensated, but I think what our system has done, you know, you’ll have a situation somebody’s really not liable but if you bring a suit, it’ll be more expensive to defend the suit, and so you have an incentive as a cost of doing business to do a settlement because it’ll be cheaper than hiring a lawyer to prove your innocence.”
The governor said auto insurance rates in Florida was due to embedded litigation costs in insurance premiums. He said the state wanted to position itself in the best place for success, then said the changes to be announced would be “the most significant legal reform” in state history.
Renner and Passidomo both praised the governor, as well as the property insurance reforms signed into law after December’s special legislative session, then said the reforms would be expanded to apply to “all litigation issues” in Florida.
Passidomo said the legislature would take action to protect Floridians and hold lawyers accountable, saying the Florida Bar did not do it the way it should.
After several speakers highlighted the difficult legal situation for drivers and businesses in Florida, DeSantis said the legislation’s main goal was to encourage development and do more to make conditions better for businesses moving to the state and make the legal environment more stable and predictable.
Before beginning the legislative announcement, DeSantis repeated concerns about economic inflation across America, highlighting relief plans in the state such as a toll rebate program and other tax proposals, which includes $1.5 billion in tax relief for Floridians in 2023.
The economy commentary comes as the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest inflation report, the Consumer Price Index.
During a question and answer session after the main event, DeSantis was asked about recent comments regarding the College Board and Florida’s partnership as far as the SAT and Advanced Placement courses.
In response, DeSantis said the unelected organization wasn’t the only option for college course credits for students. He named the Cambridge as well as IB as “more rigorous” course options. He said some of the best high schools in the country don’t use AP courses from the College Board, so he wanted to review alternatives.
With Feb. 14 being the anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, and another mass shooting event at Michigan State University Monday night, DeSantis said that in the five years since Parkland, Florida had worked hard to bring accountability and safety to schools in the state.
“Five years ago was one of the worst days that this state has ever had. I was not governor yet at the time, but it was something that I think reverberated in every corner of our state but really across the country,” DeSantis said. “When I became governor, I got to know many of the families, and these were really really difficult losses. It was an abominable act.”
After speaking on it at length, DeSantis was asked if he was going to run for president, following a campaign announcement by Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and official during the administration of former President Donald J. Trump.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” DeSantis joked.
Another question, this time turning back to education, was focused on books and classroom libraries in Duval County.
Referring to a video of empty bookshelves in a class library, DeSantis said it was a fake video and that “the books hadn’t been put out” in the first place and was just an attempt at “creating some narrative.”
“There’s no need for all of that stuff, what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to act like we don’t want books,” DeSantis said. “You hear people talk about felony charges. Understand, nothing we’ve done since I’ve been governor has done any of that. Now, there is longstanding Florida law that prohibits an adult from giving a school child pornography. Don’t we think that’s inappropriate to do? But that’s been a law for a long time.”
The governor said people were complaining to “virtue signal” and that he had instructed the Florida Department of Education to speak with schools about content and removals. He also said the state was intent on providing power to parents when it came to content access.
“I can tell you, with our curriculum transparency, our parents are concerned if you’re in sixth grade and you’re able to access a book that has pornographic acts depicted,” DeSantis said. “And you have seen that across the country. Go read books like ‘Genderqueer’ and see what’s in there. It’s inappropriate. We’ve armed parents with the ability to object to that and we’re making sure we’re having education, not indoctrination. Any time you hear about something that sounds so outlandish, understand that they’re manufacturing that to create a narrative.”
DeSantis said superintendents complaining of bans would be reviewed by the FDOE, and that if something sounds “99% wrong, it’s not any type of issue,” instead that books objected to by parents are “rarely” admitted to by schools.
He said there was an effort in the country to force that type of content into schools and that it would not happen in Florida.
Answering a question about a book by baseball player Roberto Clemente, DeSantis said he didn’t think anyone was contesting that book, and that instead it was “politics” involved with school unions and encouraged people to submit records requests.
“That’s a joke, you get something like that about a baseball player, I don’t think parents are challenging that, I think they’re doing it unilaterally to try to create an issue,” DeSantis said. “But that can be resolved in about two minutes,” saying the FDOE would work quickly to resolve it.
The governor finished by saying that this “wasn’t rocket science” and that instead almost all of those issues were “manufactured,” and that students needed to learn the basics instead of “injected” other content. He said maybe the state should consider setting rules for speed of response on contested materials in schools.
“Nobody justifies it,” DeSantis said, suggesting that the state might hold a presentation with the materials on a “big board…Once it’s shown…there will not be one person that says this stuff should stay in. Having young kids engaging in sex acts? You’re going to compare that to a biography of Roberto Clemente? Give me a break,” DeSantis said, ending the event.