DeSantis was born on September 14, 1978, in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Karen (née Rogers) and Ronald Daniel DeSantis. He is of Italian descent, with all of his great-grandparents born in Italy. His maternal great-great-grandfather Salvatore Storti immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1904, eventually settling in Pennsylvania. His great-great-grandmother Luigia Colucci joined her husband in the United States in 1917. DeSantis's mother was a nurse and his father installed Nielsen TV rating boxes. His family moved to Orlando, Florida, before relocating to Dunedin, Florida, when he was six years old. His sister Christina Marie DeSantis was born on May 5, 1985, in Orlando and died in 2015. He was a member of the Little League team from Dunedin National that made it to the 1991 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. DeSantis attended Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School and Dunedin High School, graduating in 1997.
DeSantis prefiled the oath of office with the Florida secretary of state and became governor on January 8, 2019. The official swearing-in ceremony was held at noon that day. On January 11, DeSantis posthumously pardoned the Groveland Four, four black men falsely convicted of rape in 1949.
In February 2022, DeSantis voiced his support for the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, often called the "Don't Say Gay" law by its opponents, which would prohibit instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in school classrooms from kindergarten to grade 3. He said it was "entirely inappropriate" for teachers and school administrators to talk to students about their gender identity. DeSantis signed the bill into law on March 28, 2022, and it took effect on July 1. In response to The Walt Disney Company's opposition to the bill, and amid an ongoing feud between DeSantis and Disney, DeSantis suggested that the Florida legislature revoke Disney World's special self-governing privileges over its 25,000-acre (10,000-hectare) property—privileges granted to the company in 1967. On April 22, 2022, he signed a bill to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to self-govern its district, by June 2023.
Ronald Dion DeSantis (/diˈsæntɪs/; born September 14, 1978) is an American politician who has served since 2019 as the 46th governor of Florida . Before being elected governor, DeSantis represented Florida's 6th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2013 to 2018.
After high school, DeSantis studied history at Yale University. He was captain of Yale's varsity baseball team and joined the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He was an outfielder on the Yale baseball team; as a senior in 2001, he had the team's best batting average at .336. While attending Yale he worked a variety of jobs, including an electrician's assistant and a baseball camp coach. DeSantis graduated from Yale in 2001 with a B.A. magna cum laude. After spending a year as a history teacher at the Darlington School, he attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 2005 with a Juris Doctor cum laude.
Born in Jacksonville, DeSantis spent most of his childhood in Dunedin, Florida. He graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School. DeSantis joined the United States Navy in 2004, where he was promoted to lieutenant before serving as an advisor to SEAL Team One and being deployed to Iraq in 2007. When he returned to the U.S. a year later, the U.S. Department of Justice appointed DeSantis to serve as a Special Assistant U.S. attorney at the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Middle District of Florida, a position he held until his honorable discharge in 2010.
In 2004, during his second year at Harvard Law, DeSantis was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Navy and assigned to the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG). He completed Naval Justice School in 2005. Later that year, he received orders to the JAG Trial Service Office Command South East at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, as a prosecutor. He was promoted from lieutenant, junior grade to lieutenant in 2006. He worked for the commander of Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), working directly with detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Joint Detention Facility.
In 2007, DeSantis reported to the Naval Special Warfare Command Group in Coronado, California, where he was assigned to SEAL Team One and deployed to Iraq with the troop surge as the Legal Advisor to the SEAL Commander, Special Operations Task Force-West in Fallujah.
DeSantis returned to the U.S. in April 2008, at which time he was reassigned to the Naval Region Southeast Legal Service. The U.S. Department of Justice appointed him to serve as a Special Assistant U.S. attorney at the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Middle District of Florida. DeSantis was assigned as a trial defense counsel until his honorable discharge from active duty in February 2010. He concurrently accepted a reserve commission as a lieutenant in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the US Navy Reserve.
DeSantis is a Roman Catholic. He married Casey Black, a former television host for the Golf Channel and WJXT, in 2010. The couple lived in Ponte Vedra Beach, near St. Augustine, until it was drawn into the neighboring 4th district. They then moved to Palm Coast, north of Daytona Beach. They have three children. DeSantis is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
DeSantis was first elected to Congress in 2012, defeating his Democratic opponent Heather Beaven. During his tenure, he became a founding member of the Freedom Caucus and was an ally of President Donald Trump. DeSantis frequently criticized Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He briefly ran for U.S. Senate in 2016, but withdrew when incumbent senator Marco Rubio sought reelection.
In 2012, DeSantis announced he would run in the Republican primary for Florida's 6th congressional district. The district had previously been the 7th, represented by 10-term Republican John Mica, but Mica's share of Orlando had been drawn into the new 7th District, and Mica opted to run there even though the new 6th included the bulk of his former territory.
In 2013, Representative DeSantis opposed federal disaster relief for New York and New Jersey, which had been impacted by Hurricane Sandy, due to "no plan to offset the spending with cuts elsewhere".
DeSantis won the six-candidate Republican primary with 39% of the vote, while the runner-up, state representative Fred Costello, received 23%. In the November general election, DeSantis defeated Democratic nominee Heather Beaven 57–43%, with majorities in all four counties. He was reelected in 2014 and 2016.
DeSantis signed a 2013 pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity vowing to vote against any global warming legislation that would raise taxes. In 2015, DeSantis was a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, a group of congressional conservatives and libertarians.
In the wake of the alleged IRS targeting controversy, DeSantis called for IRS commissioner John Koskinen's resignation for having "failed the American people by frustrating Congress's attempts to ascertain the truth". He co-sponsored a bill to impeach Koskinen for violating the public's trust. Citizens Against Government Waste, a conservative think tank, named DeSantis a "Taxpayer Superhero" in 2015.
In May 2015, DeSantis announced his candidacy for the United States Senate seat held by Marco Rubio, who initially did not file to run for reelection due to his bid for the U.S. presidency. He was endorsed by the fiscally conservative Club for Growth. When Rubio ended his presidential bid and ran for reelection to the Senate, DeSantis withdrew from the Senate race and ran for reelection to the House.
In August 2017, DeSantis added a rider to the proposed fiscal 2018 spending bill package that would end funding for the Mueller investigation "or for the investigation under that order of matters occurring before June 2015" (the month Trump announced he was running for president). The amendment was intended to counter a bipartisan bill written by two Democratic and two Republican U.S. senators which would have limited the president's power to fire the special counsel. The DeSantis amendment sought to cut off the investigation's funding by November 2017. It was also a response to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's statement that the DOJ "doesn't conduct fishing expeditions". DeSantis stated that the DOJ order dated May 17, 2017, "didn't identify a crime to be investigated and practically invites a fishing expedition".
DeSantis introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act, which would allow states to create their own accreditation systems, in 2016. In an op-ed for National Review, he said his legislation would give students "access to federal loan money to put towards non-traditional educational opportunities, such as online learning courses, vocational schools, and apprenticeships in skilled trades".
In January 2018, DeSantis announced his candidacy for governor of Florida to succeed term-limited Republican incumbent Rick Scott. President Trump had said in December 2017 that he would support DeSantis should he run for governor. During the Republican primary, DeSantis emphasized his support for Trump by running an ad in which DeSantis taught his children how to "build the wall" and say "Make America Great Again" and dressed one of his children in a red "Make America Great Again" jumper. Asked if he could name an issue where he disagreed with Trump, DeSantis did not identify one. On July 30, 2018, Jonathan Martin of The New York Times wrote that the support DeSantis's primary campaign had received demonstrated both Trump's king-making capacity in a Republican-trending state and a "broader nationalization of conservative politics" whereby "a willingness to hurl rhetorical lightning bolts at the left, the media and special counsel Robert S. Mueller can override local credentials, local endorsements and preparedness for a state-based job".
DeSantis has a "0" rating from the Human Rights Campaign for his voting record on LGBT-related issues and legislation. In 2018, he told the Sun-Sentinel that he "doesn't want any discrimination in Florida, I want people to be able to live their life, whether you're gay or whether you're religious."
On August 28, 2018, DeSantis won the Republican primary by defeating his main opponent, Adam Putnam. His next opponent was Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum in the general election. The race was "widely seen as a toss-up".
In September 2018, DeSantis announced state representative Jeanette Núñez as his running mate. He resigned his House seat on September 10, 2018, to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. The same month, DeSantis was criticized by television talk show host Joe Scarborough for not having a fully formed policy platform, and canceled a planned interview with the Tampa Bay Times to have additional time to put together a platform before an in-depth policy interview.
DeSantis expressed support for the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative after it passed in November 2018, saying that he was "obligated to faithfully implement [it] as it is defined" when he became governor. After he refused to restore the voting rights for felons with unpaid fines, which voting rights groups said was inconsistent with the results of the referendum, he was challenged in court. The Florida Supreme Court sided with DeSantis on the issue, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit also sided with DeSantis in a 6–4 ruling.
In 2019, DeSantis signed an executive order that included a variety of components relating to the environment. These included a promise to spend $2.5 billion over four years on restoring the Everglades and "other water protection", and the creation of a Blue-Green Algae Task Force, an Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency, and a Chief Science Officer.
In January 2019, DeSantis officially suspended Broward County sheriff Scott Israel for his response to the mass shootings at the Fort Lauderdale airport and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, appointing Gregory Tony to replace Israel. In his first two weeks in office, DeSantis appointed Barbara Lagoa, Robert J. Luck and Carlos G. Muñiz to fill the three vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court, shifting the court's majority from liberal to conservative. He replaced the entire South Florida Water Management District board. He signed a $2.5 billion executive order for water quality and Everglades restoration work. In January 2019, DeSantis signed an executive order calling for the end of Common Core in Florida.
In April 2019, DeSantis directed Florida's elections chief to expand the availability of Spanish-language ballots and Spanish assistance for voters. In a statement, DeSantis said "It is critically important that Spanish-speaking Floridians are able to exercise their right to vote without any language barriers."
DeSantis was a critic of Obama's immigration policies; he opposed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and accused him of failing to enforce immigration laws. DeSantis has sought to ban "sanctuary cities". He co-sponsored the Establishing Mandatory Minimums for Illegal Reentry Act of 2015, also known as Kate's Law, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to increase penalties applicable to aliens who unlawfully reenter the U.S. after being removed. DeSantis encouraged Florida sheriffs to cooperate with the federal government on immigration-related issues. In June 2019, he signed an anti-"sanctuary city" bill into law. Florida had no sanctuary cities in before the law's enactment, and immigration advocates called the bill politically motivated.
In June 2019, DeSantis signed a measure that would make it harder to launch successful ballot initiatives. Petition-gathering for ballot initiatives to legalize medical cannabis, increases to the minimum wage, and expansion of Medicaid were also under way.
After the 2020 U.S. elections, DeSantis and other Republicans proposed changes to Florida election laws. DeSantis called for eliminating ballot drop boxes, as well as limiting voting by mail by requiring that voters re-register every year to vote by mail and requiring that signatures on mail-in ballots "must match the most recent signature on file" (rather than any of the voter's signatures in the Florida system). The changes to mail-in voting were notable given that Republicans had historically voted by mail more than Democrats, but Democrats outvoted Republicans by mail in 2020. According to a Tampa Bay Times analysis, DeSantis's signature match proposal could have led to rejections of his own mail-in ballots due to changes in his signature history over time; voting rights experts argued that the signature matching proposal could be used to disenfranchise voters whose signatures varied over time.
In April 2021, DeSantis signed into law the Combating Public Disorder Act he had been advocating. Aside from being an anti-riot statute, it forbade intimidation by mobs; penalized damage to historic properties or memorials, such as downtown Miami's Christopher Columbus statue, which was damaged in 2020; and forbade publishing personal identifying information online with intent to harm. DeSantis had argued for this legislation by citing the George Floyd protests of 2020 as well as the 2021 United States Capitol attack, but only the former was mentioned at the signing ceremony. Several months after the signing, a federal judge blocked the portion of the law that introduced a new definition of "riot", calling it too vague.
By the end of March 2020, Florida had 6,741 confirmed cases of COVID-19. DeSantis declared that he would not issue a statewide stay-at-home order because the Trump administration had not recommended it. On April 1, he ordered that all Floridians stay home for 30 days with exceptions for essential services and activities. He received criticism for falsely stating on April 9 that COVID-19 had caused no fatalities under 25 in the United States. DeSantis acknowledged this error after critics pointed it out, and clarified that there have been no deaths from the virus in people under 25 in Florida. In early June, he partially lifted his stay-at-home order, lifting restrictions on bars and cinemas; the same day he lifted the restrictions, Florida recorded the largest case surge in six weeks.
In March 2020, DeSantis decided against declaring a state of emergency in Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists and media outlets have given mixed reviews of DeSantis's handling of the pandemic. Florida's death rate from COVID-19 (75,000 deaths) ended up being within the national average and Florida's economy fared better than many other U.S. states.
DeSantis's handling of COVID-19 in Florida was initially unpopular among the state's voters: by May 2020, he was the only U.S. governor whose approval had declined after COVID-19 became widespread in the U.S. But after a few months, DeSantis's reluctance to impose restrictions in response to the pandemic led to an increase in approval, especially among Republican voters.
In June 2020, DeSantis said the bulk of new cases were present in "younger demographics" and argued that increased testing, particularly of asymptomatic individuals, and more efficient identification of outbreaks in areas such as prisons and in Florida's agriculture sector were responsible for most of the increase. He emphasized that the strain on the hospital system and medical supplies such as ventilators had decreased since the previous peak in case numbers, and that Florida was ready to handle any additional influx in hospital patients, adding that the state had "twice as many" open hospital beds than on March 1. DeSantis announced that he would reinstate some restrictions on business activity in late June to halt the virus's spread, but said Florida is "not going back" on reopening the economy, arguing that "people going to a business is not what's driving" the surge in cases. Anthony Fauci said that states reopening faster than federal guidelines were contributing to a rise in cases.
On June 28, 2020, DeSantis said Florida was in "good shape" in its fight against COVID-19. In July 2020, when Florida was a global epicenter of the coronavirus with nearly 5,800 deaths, DeSantis largely sidelined health experts and scientists, with The Washington Post reporting that he relied primarily on his wife, a former television reporter, and his chief of staff, a former hospital executive.
DeSantis supports banning hydraulic fracturing. On July 10, 2020, he announced that Florida would spend $8.6 million out of $166 million received by the state from a legal settlement between Volkswagen and the United States Department of Justice relating to emission violations to add 34 charging stations for electric cars. The stations would be along Interstates 4, 75, 95, 275 and 295. On June 16, 2021, DeSantis signed into law House Bill 839, which bans local governments in Florida from requiring gas stations to add electric car charging stations.
By February 2021, he had generally positive approval ratings, ranging from 51% to 64%. In March 2021, Politico called DeSantis the most "politically ascendant" governor in the country, as his controversial policies had been at that point "short of or even the opposite of ruinous", while Florida had "fared no worse, and in some ways better, than many other states". By August 2021, amid a record in new cases within the state, Florida had become the state with the highest per capita hospitalizations for COVID-19. By April 2021, Florida was 27th out of 50 in both cases and deaths per capita. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found substantial underreporting of deaths from COVID-19 in Florida from March to September 2020. Experts noted similar underreporting has occurred throughout the nation.
In July 2021, Florida experienced a record surge in COVID-19 cases, setting a new daily case record on July 30 and accounting for around 1 in 5 new infections in the country. Amid the resurgence, DeSantis banned public schools from implementing mask mandates, claiming without evidence that masks were harmful to children, and in August 2021 he threatened to fine, withhold funding, or withhold salary from any school district or school official who did so. Previously, data released by the Florida Department of Health had tied over 100,000 COVID-19 cases to Florida private and public K-12 schools from September 2020 to April 2021. In late August, the DeSantis administration ordered Alachua and Broward school districts to reverse their mask mandates or face a reduction in state funding, leading the districts' leaders to declare that they would take legal action in response.
In September 2020, he lifted all restrictions on capacity in bars and restaurants, despite persistent cases. He banned cities and counties from collecting fines from face mask mandates and urged public health officials in Florida cities to focus less on universal COVID-19 testing.
The DeSantis administration largely ignored the scientists in Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Instead, in August and September 2020, DeSantis invited to Florida other scientists who endorsed less restrictive COVID-19 policies that he agreed with, so that they could conduct press conferences with him. They included radiologist Scott Atlas, a Trump administration advisor known for spreading misinformation about COVID-19.
DeSantis favored reopening schools for in-person learning for the 2020–21 school year. By October 2020, he announced all 67 public school districts were open for in-person learning.
In November 2020, DeSantis proposed an "anti-mob" extension to the preexisting stand-your-ground law in Florida that would allow gun-owning residents to use deadly force on individuals they believe are looting. It would also make blocking traffic during a protest a third-degree felony and impose criminal penalties for partaking in "violent or disorderly assemblies".
According to a December 2020 article in the Sun-Sentinel, "DeSantis, who owes his job to early support from President Donald Trump, imposed an approach in line with the views of the president and his powerful base of supporters. The administration suppressed unfavorable facts, dispensed dangerous misinformation, dismissed public health professionals, and promoted the views of scientific dissenters who supported the governor’s approach to the disease."
In February 2021, DeSantis threatened to withhold COVID-19 vaccines from counties that criticized the manner in which vaccines were distributed. The same month, the Biden administration mulled imposing travel restrictions on Florida and other domestic locations to prevent further spread of COVID-19. DeSantis expressed his discontent with what he characterized as "trying to shut FL's border" and announced his intention to fervently oppose it if executed.
On February 2, 2021, DeSantis announced his support of legislation to crack down on Big Tech and prevent alleged political censorship. He also announced his support of a number of election law restrictions.
In March 2021, DeSantis proposed legislation to impose restrictions and stricter requirements for Florida universities to collaborate with Chinese academics and universities; he said this would crack down on economic espionage by China. DeSantis signed two such bills in June. In May 2021, he signed a deal with The Seminole Tribe of Florida to allow the tribe to offer statewide online sports betting. In June 2021, DeSantis signed a bill incentivizing wildlife corridors.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida, DeSantis resisted imposing restrictions such as face mask mandates, stay-at-home orders, and vaccination requirements. In May 2021, he signed into law a bill that prohibited businesses, schools, cruise ships, and government entities from requiring proof of vaccination. In March 2022, DeSantis signed into law the Parental Rights in Education Act, called the "Don't Say Gay" law by its opponents, which prohibits instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in public school classrooms from kindergarten to grade three.
On May 3, 2021, DeSantis signed an executive order officially rescinding the state of emergency and all COVID-19-related public health orders. This order superseded all local public health orders and prohibited municipalities from enacting any further public health order related to COVID-19. The same day, he signed a bill into law that prohibited businesses, cruise ships, schools, and government entities from requiring proof of vaccination for use of services.
On May 5, 2021, Desantis announced that all Florida police officers, firefighters, and paramedics would receive a $1,000 bonus.
On June 1, 2021, DeSantis signed the Fairness in Women's Sports Act (SB 1028). It bans transgender girls and women from participating and competing in middle-school and high-school girls' and college women's sports competitions in Florida. The law took effect on July 1.
In June 2021, DeSantis led an effort to ban the teaching of critical race theory in Florida public schools (though it had not been a part of Florida public school curriculum). He described critical race theory as "teaching kids to hate their country", mirroring a similar push by conservatives nationally. The Florida Board of Education approved the ban on June 10. The Florida Education Association criticized the ban, accusing the Board of trying to hide facts from students. Other critics claimed the ban was an effort to "politicize classroom education and whitewash American history".
On June 21, 2021, DeSantis signed into law House Bill 919, which prohibits local governments from placing bans or restrictions on any source of electricity. Several sizable cities in Florida at that time (Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Dunedin, Largo, Satellite Beach, Gainesville, Sarasota, Safety Harbor and Miami Beach) were setting goals to get all their energy from renewable sources. The bill was described as similar to those in other states (Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona and Oklahoma) that passed laws preventing cities from banning natural gas hookups.
DeSantis signed three education bills into law on June 22, 2021, and suggested that state colleges and universities could lose funding if they were found to promote "stale ideology" and "indoctrination". He offered no specific examples of students being indoctrinated by Florida higher education institutions. House Bill 233 requires institutions to annually “assess the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at that institution using a survey adopted by the State Board of Education", while House Bill 5 and Senate Bill 1108 introduce new requirements for civics education, including lessons on the "evil of communist and totalitarian regimes". Critics of the laws, including the Florida Education Association, claim they will have a "chilling effect on intellectual and academic freedom" and that the bills were designed to intimidate educators and suppress the free exchange of ideas.
In August 2021, President Biden singled out Florida and Texas as "states with low vaccination rates" that "account for one third of all new COVID-19 cases in the entire country". Biden added, "if some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it." DeSantis responded, "We will not allow Joe Biden and his bureaucratic flunkies to come in and commandeer the rights and freedoms of Floridians." He also said, "No elected official is doing more to enable the transmission of COVID in America than Joe Biden with his open borders policies." The Washington Post reported that this claim was based on "guesswork and assumptions, not evidence", while PolitiFact reported that COVID-19 hot spots tend to be clustered far from the border, in places with low rates of public vaccination, not along the southern border, as would be expected if migrants were driving the surge in cases. Moreover, the U.S. does not have an open borders policy, as most migrants at the southern border are prevented from entering the country by Title 42.
On August 27, 2021, Judge John Cooper ruled that DeSantis could not ban mask mandates in schools. The state appealed, automatically suspending Cooper's ruling while the appeal was considered, but Cooper overruled that suspension on September 8, lifting DeSantis's ban, citing the need to protect unvaccinated children.
DeSantis opposes efforts to defund the police, and as governor has introduced initiatives to "fund the police". In September 2021, DeSantis introduced a $5,000 signing bonus for Florida police officers in a bid to attract additional out-of-state police recruits.
DeSantis announced that Florida would replace the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) test with a system of smaller tests scattered throughout the year on September 14, 2021. He said the replacement would be three tests for the fall, winter and spring, each smaller than the FSA. Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran agreed with the decision, calling it a "huge victory for the school system". The new system is to be implemented by the 2022–23 school year. DeSantis signed a bill (SB 1048) ending the FSA testing on March 15, 2022. The new bill mandates a "progress monitoring system" that tests students three times a year, at the beginning, middle and end of each school year. The Florida Education Association criticized the bill, saying it failed to reduce the standardized testing done on students or "eliminate the big make-or-break test at the end of year." Corcoran praised the bill, saying the monitoring caters to students, gives teachers more easily available data, and is "much more helpful to parents, and most importantly, it's beneficial to students".
On September 21, 2021, DeSantis appointed Joseph Ladapo, a vocal supporter of his COVID-19 policies, as Florida's surgeon general. Ladapo has a history of promoting unproven treatments against COVID-19, opposes COVID-19 vaccine requirements, has questioned the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, and has associated with America's Frontline Doctors, a pro-Trump healthcare group known for promoting falsehoods about the pandemic.
In October 2021, DeSantis offered to pay police officers $5,000 to relocate to and work in Florida, making a specific appeal to officers who refused to comply with vaccine requirements.
On November 18, 2021, DeSantis signed a legislative package into law, officially making Florida the first state to impose fines on businesses and hospitals that require inoculation against COVID-19 without exemptions or alternatives. The legislation was signed a day after Florida Republican lawmakers passed his anti-mandate agenda. DeSantis called it "the strongest piece of legislation that's been enacted anywhere in the country" in opposition to COVID-19 vaccination mandates.
As a result of a significant increase in gas prices, DeSantis would announce on November 22, 2021, that he would be temporarily waiving the state's gas tax in the next legislative session in 2022.
On December 2, 2021, DeSantis announced that as part of a $100 million funding proposal for the Florida National Guard, $3.5 million would be allocated to the reactivation of the Florida State Guard, a volunteer state defense force that has been inactive since 1947.
On December 15, 2021, DeSantis announced a new bill, the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (WOKE) Act, which would allow parents to sue school districts that teach their children critical race theory. The bill is designed to combat "woke indoctrination" in Florida businesses and schools by preventing instruction that could make some people feel that they bear "personal responsibility" for historic wrongdoings because of their race, gender or national origin, preventing instruction that teaches that individuals are "inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.", and preventing instruction that teaches that groups of people are oppressed or privileged based on their race, gender or national origin. He said of the bill: "No taxpayer dollars should be used to teach our kids to hate our country or hate each other."
During 2021, there was speculation that DeSantis would run for president in the 2024 election. On September 7, DeSantis said he thought such speculation was "purely manufactured". During a September 30 appearance on Fox News, he said he would run for reelection as governor in 2022 but was not thinking beyond that. On November 5 he filed to run for reelection as governor, and on November 8 announced that he had done so. In a straw poll conducted at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, DeSantis came in second with 28% of the vote, behind Donald Trump, who received 59%.
In 2022, DeSantis was increasingly seen as a contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Various writers predicted that DeSantis could defeat former president Donald Trump or said that DeSantis is preferable to Trump in view of the January 6 hearings and subsequent straw polls.
In 2022, Governor DeSantis requested for federal disaster relief for Florida due to the impact of Hurricane Ian, arguing that those in government should "put politics aside" when "people are fighting for their lives, when their whole livelihood is at stake, when they've lost everything".
On March 22, 2022, DeSantis signed into law bill SB 1054, which requires students entering high school starting in the 2023–24 school year to take a financial literacy course. Florida is the largest U.S. state to mandate a financial literacy course.
DeSantis opposes abortion and has denounced Planned Parenthood. On April 14, 2022, DeSantis signed into law a bill that bans elective abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, shortening the period of viability from 24 weeks. The law permits termination of a viable pregnancy if at least two physicians certify that it is necessary to avert a "serious risk" to the pregnant woman's physical health or that the fetus has a "fatal fetal abnormality", but does not permit elective termination of viable pregnancies resulting from rape, human trafficking, or incest, or permit termination of viable pregnancies that pose a risk of psychological (but not physical) affliction.
In May 2022, a Bloomberg News op-ed claimed that, when adjusting state death tolls based on what they would be if age distribution were equal between the states, Florida's COVID-19 death toll would be less than the national average and only slightly more than California's. The op-ed also found that young people have been far more likely to die from COVID-19 in Florida than California, probably because children were in physical schools in Florida during the 2020-21 school year.
On May 9, 2022, DeSantis signed House Bill 395, mandating that schools observe the traditional Soviet October Revolution Day on November 7 as Victims of Communism Day by devoting 45 minutes to teaching about communism, the role of Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and other communist leaders in history, and "how people suffered under those regimes".
In June 2022, DeSantis decided against ordering COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5, making Florida the only state not to preorder vaccines for that demographic.
Following similar actions by Texas governor Greg Abbott, on September 14, 2022, DeSantis sent two charter planes with at least 50 undocumented immigrants (mostly Venezuelans) to Martha's Vineyard, in order to draw attention to the Biden administration's border policies. Attorneys representing the immigrants claimed that they were lied to, being promised jobs and housing. DeSantis' spokesperson responded by saying the migrants had all signed a consent form, and called the lawsuit "political theater" by "opportunistic activists" at the expense of illegal immigrants.