Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who rode into office with the support of tea party groups and other conservative organizations, rejected their request that he veto a wide-ranging energy bill.
Scott instead announced on Friday that he would allow the bill (HB 7117) to become law without his signature.
The governor also vetoed a courts bill and signed 18 other measures into law including a bill responding to a state Supreme Court ruling from last year that Scott exceeded his authority. Scott also said he would allow another bill dealing with Hillsborough County taxi drivers to become law without his signature.
Conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, took aim at the energy bill even though it had the backing of Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Those opposed to the bill contended it created winners and losers in energy production because it would restore expired tax credits for renewable energy projects.
Scott in a letter said he was concerned whether taxpayers would get a return for their investment but said out of deference to Putnam and legislators he would let the bill become law. But he warned he would push to repeal the tax credits if they did not prove worth it.
Putnam praised the governor for letting a “modest step” to go forward and noted the tax credits are open to all types of renewable energy.
“Rooted in common sense, this bill was developed to expand energy production in Florida and create much-needed jobs for Floridians,” Putnam said in a statement.
Another bill that Scott signed deals with a controversy from his first year in office.
Last year the state’s high court ruled that Scott went too far when he ordered state agencies to freeze rulemaking and instead allow the governor to review and approve rules first. State agencies are given the responsibility to pass rules in order to carry out laws passed by the Legislature.
The new measure (HB 7055) – which was sponsored by Sen. Don Gaetz and his son Rep. Matt Gaetz – makes it clear Scott has power over state agency heads who report to him.
Scott said that the court ruling was now a “dead letter” but he still took time to criticize the state Supreme Court in a letter accompanying his signature.
“I must emphasize under a proper reading of the Florida Constitution this law is unnecessary,” Scott wrote.
Sandy D’Alemberte, the attorney who brought the lawsuit criticized by Scott, said it was “unwise of the Legislature” to give the governor additional power. He said Scott’s actions could wind up making it harder for members of the public to challenge rules.
“The Legislature ought to keep control of the policy-making within this state,” he said. “Now to give a portion of it to the governor is a bad mistake I think.”
The bill Scott signed is believed the first piece of legislation passed by a father-son team as senator and representative.
Scott also on Friday signed a bill (HB 463) that requires the state to issue concealed weapons permits to veterans or members of the military. He also approved a measure (HB 1417) that will allow the state’s pension plan to invest up to 20 percent of its assets in alternative investments such as hedge funds.
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