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Steve Bousquet: Rick Scott's latest veto is simply wild

Gov. Rick Scott's legacy is now secure.

He'll forever be known as the governor who vetoed a bill involving a specialty license tag for wildflowers.

Florida's governor showed his true colors Friday when he vetoed what might have been the least controversial bill of the entire 2013 legislative session.

The man's mind is clearly on getting re-elected.

But his logic was — there's only one word for it — wild.

The wildflower bill passed both houses of the Legislature by unanimous votes. Most lawmakers are, like Scott, Republicans who oppose higher taxes.

And everybody knows Scott opposes raising the cost of government on Florida residents. But to use the wildflower license plate as an example is taking things to ridiculous extremes.

Scott's stated reason for his veto is that the bill, HB 265, would have increased the annual fee for the wildflower license plate from $15 to $25, which is true.

But the fee is voluntary.

No one pays it unless they want the tag on their car.

No tag, no fee.

"Although buying a specialty license tag is voluntary, Floridians wishing to demonstrate their support for our state's natural beauty would be subjected to the cost increases sought by this bill," Scott said in a brief veto message.

Okay. But If Scott is so concerned about license tag fees, why did he approve creating three new ones earlier this year?

They are for the American Legion, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Lauren's Kids, which teaches kids about the risk of sexual assault. Each of the tags will cost motorists who buy them $25 more.

A fee increase?

Absolutely.

But it's voluntary. No one has to pay it unless they want to.

• • •

The Florida Wildflower Foundation wanted the extra money to expand research and education programs and fund a second student endowment in wildflower studies at the University of Florida, executive director Lisa Roberts said.

"Everybody is so surprised," Roberts said.

Most other Florida specialty tags (for universities, pro sports teams, manatees and panthers, to name a few) already cost $25 more. The bill would have brought the cost of the wildflower tag in line with what others cost.

Since the wildflower tag debuted in 2006, nearly 92,000 motorists have bought one, including about 12,000 in the Tampa Bay area.

The House passed the bill late one night near the end of a marathon session when everybody was looking for a little levity.

The bill seemed so innocuous that legislators laughed and poked fun at its sponsor, Rep. John Wood, a Winter Haven Republican.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, asked Wood to talk about "cutting-edge wildflower research."

"Let's talk about the state wildflower," Wood told House members, recalling his mother's past work as a leader of Florida garden clubs.

Another supporter, Rep. Tom Goodson, said it was the first time the Sierra Club supported one of his bills.

Scott didn't see the humor in it all.

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Steve Bousquet: Rick Scott's latest veto is simply wild

06/17/13 [Last modified: Monday, June 17, 2013 9:24pm]
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