The Phoenix Flyer

More than 100 bills still up for Gov. Ron DeSantis approval or veto

By: - May 31, 2019 2:33 pm

Florida Republican governor-elect Ron DeSantis sits at the front of the Florida Senate chamber during the 2018 Senate organizational session Tuesday, Nov. 20, in Florida’s Capitol building in Tallahassee. Lieutenant Governor-elect Jeanette Nunez sits beside him. CD Davidson-Hiers/Florida Phoenix

Gov. Ron DeSantis can look forward to reviewing 115 pieces of legislation upon his return from Israel, plus the three bills already on his desk as of Friday. Since the Florida Legislature adjourned on May 4, DeSantis has  signed 77 bills, and is waiting for the Legislature to send over 112 more.

Those outstanding bills include some major legislation – the $91.1 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, for example. The governor is also waiting to review controversial legislation that sets up new hurdles for felons who were supposed to automatically get the right to vote under last fall’s Constitutional Amendment 4, a bill that environmental groups say threatens Everglades restoration, and a bill that would make it harder for citizens to put state constitutional amendments before voters.

DeSantis has vetoed two bills so far  – HB 771, which would have overridden local authority to ban plastic straws, and HB 1417, to change a Brevard County water district’s threshold to set user fees, according to legislative records.

Legislators were waiting for the governor’s return to resume sending him legislation, said Katherine Betta, spokeswoman for Florida Senate President Bill Galvano. “The Senate is coordinating with the governor’s office,” she said via email. The governor’s press office didn’t respond to a request for information about his plans.

DeSantis, Galvano, and House Speaker Jose Oliva are all Republicans. That’s no guarantee they’ll work and play well together – former Gov., now U.S. Sen., Rick Scott was famously stand-offish from the people running the House and Senate. But DeSantis paid court to lawmakers this spring, and they praised the effectiveness of his legislative liaison staff.

When the 2019 legislative session adjourned,  DeSantis promised that he would use his line-item veto to trim the budget. But that document largely reflects – or exceeds – DeSantis’ priorities for environmental and education spending. He could target appropriations sought by individual legislators for their districts.

Environmental organizations – 44 of them, plus former Gov. Bob Graham – have urged DeSantis to veto legislation (HB 7103) that would make it risky to sue to enforce local comprehensive growth plans and, the groups say, would threaten efforts to protect and restore the Everglades. The bill would require challengers, if they lose in court, to pay legal costs for litigants defending planning decisions.

HB 5 would make changes to the way citizens run campaigns to pass state constitutional amendments. And it endangers some ongoing campaigns, including efforts to raise the minimum wage, ban assault weapons, expand Medicaid, and legalize recreational marijuana. The legislation would require people collecting petition to register with the state and have a Florida address. They no longer could be paid per signature. Critics argue legislators wanted to make it more difficult to go over their heads and  directly to the voters to change state policy.

SB 7066 would require felons who want to vote  to pay all court fees, fines, and restitution before they  can register. However, applicants could ask judges to waive payment, with permission of victims, or convert the financial obligations into community service. DeSantis has indicated he’ll sign the bill.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.