‘We’ve lost loved ones, jobs and income’: Florida Democrats push back on State of the State address

Nikki Fried, the Florida agriculture commissioner and the only Democrat elected to statewide office. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Each year following the Governor’s State of the State address, the party in the minority responds with a counter vision of where they see the state headed.

This year, some of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ top priorities are the top points of opposition from the Democratic Party.

While the Governor said Florida did a better job than other states when it came to its pandemic response during his State of the State address, Florida Democrats immediately responded with a different take.

“We’ve lost loved ones, jobs and income,” said Rep. Andrew Learned. “Instead of helping hardworking Floridians with common-sense solutions, we heard an agenda that was driven by pettiness, imaginary threats and settling partisan political scores. This is a time for leadership, a plan to get COVID-19 under control, to deliver relief for Florida’s families and build back our economy better.”

In a pre-recorded video, Democrats and progressive activists delivered what they call the ‘People’s Response’.

In it, they demanded changes to the state’s unemployment system.

“As hundreds and thousands of Floridians were personally devastated with the loss of their job at no fault of their own, with bills bearing down on them, they were left to deal with a horribly broken unemployment system,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani.

In another video, Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer took aim directly at the Governor’s top agenda items.

“Our Republican Governor has made the dissolution of your First Amendment rights his top priority and protecting violence-inciting hate speech on the internet as his second,” said Farmer.

The lone statewide elected Democrat, Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, suggested the Governor’s priorities are aimed at delivering red meat to his base rather than addressing the everyday needs of Floridians.

“We should not be dividing our state and dividing our country. If we work on issues that are impacting everybody across the board, that’s when we make progress,” said Fried.

Democrats’ key agenda items this year include expanding Medicaid, increasing unemployment benefits, police reform and expanding access to the ballot.

While Democrats are voicing their objections, they don’t have the votes to stop anything the Governor and Republican-led legislature want to do.