TALLAHASSEE — Florida's native wildflowers include 263 species that sprout in yards, gardens and along the road, a ubiquity that has relegated the plant to a mostly overlooked status.
That all changed when the flower stormed the political stage Friday after Gov. Rick Scott vetoed HB 265 — a bill that would have increased the annual $15 fee for the wildflower license plate by $10. Scott's veto sent shock waves throughout the plant world.
"I'm stunned," said Lisa Roberts, executive director of the Florida Wildflower Foundation.
Scott announced the veto late Friday afternoon. He also vetoed legislation that would have exempted from public records the email addresses listed on voter registration applications, which drew criticism from Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley. "How could I explain to a voter that their email address was provided by me to a complete stranger? Horrible policy decision!" Corley tweeted.
Scott also signed 60 bills, including one that restricts local governments from passing laws requiring businesses to offer employees paid sick time.
But it was the veto of the $25 wildflower license tag bill that seemed downright bizarre. Just last month Scott approved a $25 specialty tag for Freemasonry. And on Wednesday, Scott approved a transportation bill that established license plates for three groups: the American Legion, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Lauren's Kids, each one having a $25 fee for those who wanted to pay it.
Scott's veto letter provided no insight into why he was treating the wildflower plate differently.
"Although buying a specialty license plate is voluntary, Floridians wishing to demonstrate their support for our state's natural beauty would be subjected to the cost increases sought by the bill," he wrote.
"Why did they get their plates passed and we didn't?" Roberts said. "I can't imagine anyone being against wildflowers."
Roberts said the increase was needed because of a drop in revenue from the specialty plate, which was established in 2000. At its peak, in 2007, the tag raised $325,000. Last year it raised just about $230,000. The money goes to the foundation and helps pay for road side plantings.