Nearly 2½ weeks after lawmakers completed the 2014 session, the $77.1 billion budget bill made it to Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, but most bills that passed the Legislature still have not yet reached his desk.
Scott has 15 calendar days to act on HB 5001. His staff has been studying the budget line-by-line as the re-election-minded governor must decide whether to lop hundreds of millions of dollars in hometown spending from the biggest budget in state history or largely leave it as is.
If Scott wields a heavy veto pen, it will upset a lot of legislators and send a clear signal that he's concerned about his conservative base and needs to reassure them that he opposes more government spending.
Scott also must be consistent in the logic he applies to line items or risk being accused of playing favorites.
Legislators are fiercely protective of their right to allocate tax dollars for projects they think will help their constituents. Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, predicts a "judicious" Scott will be surgical in his line-item vetoes this time around.
"If you're the person who's promoting it and it's something that's positive for your local area, you're going to be very supportive of that in a year when we have some resources," said Thrasher, chairman of Scott's re-election campaign. "I think he's got to be judicious, and I think he will."
In Scott's first year in office, 2011, he vetoed $615 million, but about half of that ($305 million) was spending authority for the Florida Forever land-buying program. The following year he vetoed $142 million, and last year he vetoed $368 million from the current $74.1 billion budget.
"I would anticipate a couple of hundred million dollars in vetoes," Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, predicted in the final days of the session, adding with a chuckle: "I'm certainly going to try to make sure that mine are okay."
Scott signed 58 bills last week, but the flow of legislation stopped until Tuesday when he received 21 bills in addition to the budget. Lawmakers passed 255 bills subject to his approval and he has acted on 65, leaving 190 pending.
A chart from the Online Sunshine website, www.leg.state.fl.us, provides the numbers in more detail. Scott has vowed to veto one bill that he received Tuesday: SB 392, which would allow higher speed limits on interstates.
Homosexual remark draws ire
Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, garnered some attention Monday for a video in which he said Florida's new state tests would promote homosexuality among children.
"These people that will now receive $220 million from the state of Florida unless this is stopped will promote double mindedness in state education, and attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can," Van Zant said of the American Institutes for Research, which won the bid to design the state's new standards-based assessments.
PolitiFact Florida on Tuesday rated Van Zant's claim Pants on Fire.
AIR separately provides information to entities that request it to help them assist LGBT students, but PolitiFact Florida found no evidence that when AIR administers tests in Florida that the testing process will involve recruiting students to become gay.
PolitiFact Florida ruled that "Van Zant takes a somewhat limited connection between the testing company and gay and lesbian issues and then blows it up into a wild claim that lacks evidence."
The Florida Democratic Party wants Gov. Scott to condemn Van Zant's remarks.
"All of Florida's children have the right to grow up, go to school, and earn an education without fear of being judged for who they are," Chair Allison Tant said. "Anti-gay bullying has no place in the classroom, let alone in the Florida House."
Kathleen McGrory and Amy Sherman contributed.