Supported by environmentalists, Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) vetoed a controversial measure (SB2508) tied to Everglades restoration last week. In the veto letter, DeSantis noted the possibility that the legislation could have a negative impact on Everglades restoration projects.
“While the bill that was ultimately passed by the Legislature is an improvement over what was initially filed, SB 2508 still creates unnecessary and redundant regulatory hurdles which may compromise the timely execution and implementation of Everglades restoration projects, water control plans and regulation schedules,” DeSantis wrote in the letter submitted to Secretary of State Cord Byrd.
After the veto, Florida Conservation Voters (FCV) lobbyist Jonathan Webber said, “You can’t mess around with Everglades restoration or any of our major conservation programs and expect no one to notice,”
At an appearance last Wednesday at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille in Fort Myers Beach, DeSantis said, “We want to continue going on the path that we set out in January of 2019. And we don’t want anything to derail us from that. There was a lot of people that put a lot of good input in. Very, very passionate folks. We hear you, and we’re going to continue on the course that we started a little over three years ago.”
State Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), who pushed to pass the bill (SB 2508) during the legislative session, accepted changes to the part of the bill dealing with a massive Everglades reservoir project.
Environmental groups, however, continued to express concern the bill would fast-track wetlands destruction. The bill would have allowed the Department of Environmental Protection to enter contracts with public entities, including utilities, to expedite environmental resource permits or to pay into a state fund for the work.
Audubon Florida sent out a final appeal for a veto, contending that while the bill was “much improved before passage, it still creates unnecessary bureaucracy for Everglades restoration and undermines Florida Forever, the state’s land conservation program.”
There were critics of the veto.
Ryan Rossi, director of the South Florida Water Coalition, said the veto was based on “narrow, inaccurate concerns.”
“By vetoing this legislation, Gov. DeSantis has disappointed the more than seven million people in South Florida that depend on a stable supply of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee,” Rossi said in the statement.
On Thursday, DeSantis approved the $109.9 billion budget which included $500 million for the Everglades with $352.6 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan that includes the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project.
“There is no better friend of the Everglades than Ron DeSantis,” Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg Wednesday.
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Steve Stewart is a senior contributor at The Florida Capital Star.
Photo “Ron DeSantis” by Governor Ron DeSantis.