Gov. DeSantis 'Florida State Guard' proposal prompts alarm from critics

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Left-leaning politicians and pundits expressed alarm Friday after Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed the creation of a “State Guard,” a civilian-military force that he would control to assist with what his office described as “state-specific emergencies.”

DeSantis’ proposal outlines $3.5 million in funding from the state’s armed forces budget toward the creation of a Florida State Guard. The governor’s office said the funds would “enable civilians to be trained in the best emergency response techniques” to assist in the “event of a hurricane, natural disasters and other state emergencies.”

The initiative drew immediate pushback from DeSantis’ critics, some of whom alleged the Florida governor was attempting to establish his own paramilitary force. DeSantis, who has frequently clashed with the Biden administration in recent months, noted a state guard was “not encumbered by the federal government.”

FILE – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of a monoclonal antibody site Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
(AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

“No Governor should have his own handpicked secret police,” said Rep. Charlie Christ, D-Fla., a 2022 Florida gubernatorial candidate.

“Can’t believe I have to say this, but Florida doesn’t need a paramilitary force that only answers to @RonDeSantisFL,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, another Democratic gubernatorial candidate. “Millions of Floridians know what it’s like to live under regimes like this — and came to our state to escape them. This must be stopped.”

“Florida governor Ron DeSantis is either openly preparing for a break from the federal government or he wants his followers to *believe* he is. Either way, it’s extremely dangerous for the future of the United States,” said Brandon Friedman, a former Obama administration official.

The original Florida State Guard was established during World War II to replace members of the National Guard serving overseas. The entity was disbanded in 1947.

LAKELAND, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES – 2021/09/07: Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (second left) looks on as Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at the Lakeland, Florida Police Department to announce a new proposal that would provide $5,000 signing bonuses to those who sign on to be law enforcement officers from within the state of Florida, and those who come from out-of-state.  The plan would also pay up to $1,000 for training and relocation, and would set up a scholarship to pay the cost for the law enforcement academy. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Florida will be the 23rd state with an active state guard, according to DeSantis’ office. While the guard’s primary function will be to assist with disaster relief, DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw tweeted that state law allows the governor to maintain a military force to “assist the civil authorities in maintaining law and order.”

“We want to be able to have a quick response capability,” DeSantis said at a press conference unveiling the proposal. “Re-establishing the Florida State Guard will allow civilians from all over the state to be trained in the best emergency response techniques and have the ability to mobilize very, very quickly.”

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