Florida Gov Ron DeSantis has announced he would recommend $3.5m in his state’s budget to re-establish a military guard that would answer to him.
Mr DeSantis said the state guard would be a civilian volunteer force that could assist with the National Guard on state-specific emergencies.
“This funding will include the necessary training, equipment and other support functions for up to 200 members who can aid in response to hurricanes, natural disasters and other state emergencies,” he said at a news conference on Thursday “We want to be able to have a quick response capability and 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.”
The Florida State Guard was established in 1941 as the Florida Defense Force when the National Guard was in federal service during World War II. It was disbanded in 1947 after the conclusion of the war.
Mr DeSantis, who is up for reelection in 2022, is considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate. Democrats in the state were quick to criticise Mr DeSantis’s approach. Rep Charlie Crist, himself a former governor, criticised the move.
“No Governor should have his own handpicked secret police,” Mr Crist tweeted.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, implied the move to that of communist regimes like in Cuba and Venezuela, from which many of Florida’s Latino population emigrated.
“Can’t believe I have to say this, but Florida doesn’t need a paramilitary force that only answers to @RonDeSantisFL,” she tweeted. “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.”
Mr DeSantis also used the event to say that he wanted to create a bulwark against the Biden administration’s policies on immigration and also praised a federal judge for halting the administration’s vaccine mandate for health care workers in 10 states.
“That is on hold across the country and that means thousands and thousands of jobs are going to end up being preserved,” he said. Mr DeSantis also signed legislation last month to allow workers to opt out of coronavirus vaccine mandates.
Mr DeSantis has taken a decidedly more relaxed approach to Covid-19 compared to his even other Republican governors.