Governor Rick Scott’s recent veto of a bill that would have provided more funds for Florida’s native wildflowers and other plants has left several people stunned. Calling it a fee increase, he vetoed upping the price for a specialty license plate that was voluntary for Floridians. And, fans of the flora say the 10 dollar increase was to put the license plate on par with most of the other specialty license plates in Florida.
There’s more than 120 specialty license plates in Florida—one of which is the wildflower license plate. Today, it costs 15 dollars to purchase, and goes to fund different programs throughout the state, like planting projects, education about wildflowers, and research.
And, Lisa Roberts with the Florida Wildflower Foundation says she was hoping this year, they could raise that funding by asking for a 10-dollar increase for the cost of the wildflower license plates.
“And, $25 is where most of the specialty license plates in Florida are right now. They collect a $25 donation when each one is sold. So, we were trying to raise up to the level up of the other specialty tags,” said Roberts.
But, those hopes were dashed recently, when Governor Rick Scott vetoed the bill.
“I was stunned,” added Roberts.
And, Roberts wasn’t the only one. Susan Goldstein was also “shocked” by the veto. She lobbied on behalf of the foundation during the whole Legislative Session for the bill. Scott had also recently signed several other specialty license plates into law that each cost 25 dollars. And, Goldstein says that’s unfair, especially since the Wildflower bill was one of the only bills that went through the entire committee process.
The former lawmaker turned lobbyist says she was also shocked by the veto of a bill that had unanimous bipartisan support.
“Having been a former legislator, having been a lobbyist and advocate for all these years, typically if the Governor’s office has an issue, they at least have the courtesy to call and say ‘we have an issue with this or we need more information,’ particularly if it was passed unanimously! But, there were no calls. There was no indication of concern, whatsoever. So, we were blindsided,” said Goldstein.
Goldstein says another reason she didn’t see the veto coming was because of the bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative John Wood.
During this past Legislative Session, Wood talked about his late mother Ella, who was a former President of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs. Wood says she was always passionate about wildflowers and later helped start the state’s roadside wildflower planting program.
“During her presidency, she spearheaded the establishment of a natural wildflower garden at the Federation State headquarters at Winter Park. I can remember accompanying her to meet with Governor Graham to encourage the Florida Department of Transportation to plant wildflowers along our state roadways to showcase Florida’s great beauty to both residents and visitors,” said Wood.
And, those sentiments are the same as Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham. He recently got his fellow county commissioners to adopt a wildflower resolution, allowing the county to plant the flowers along the roadways.
And, they’re getting help through a grant called the “La Florida, "Land of Flowers," Community Grants, that’s funded through the wildflower license plates. He says he would encourage all counties in Florida to start their own wildflower planting program.
“It has advantages of economic development, motorists have something else to do other than look at billboards and there’s nothing nicer than to see a patch of flowers growing along the roadside. I would strongly urge counties that have not started a program that encourages wildflowers and native plants in general to get on board and contact the folks and pass a resolution at the county commission level and get the ball rolling,” said Higginbotham.
Hillsborough now joins 23 other counties that have adopted these wildflower resolutions, and Florida Wildflower foundation Executive Director Lisa Roberts says her group had hoped to expand to other counties, but the extra funds vanished with the Governor’s veto.
“We've had a lot of interest in learning to plant. We have a learn-to-plant program. We work with a lot of counties, road managers…It’s expensive, very administrative intensive. So, we’ll probably have to look at not expanding that program as we were planning," said Roberts.
In his veto letter, Governor Rick Scott said while he agrees it’s voluntary, he doesn’t believe Floridians should be subjected to a fee increase. The Florida Wildflower Foundation expects to bring the issue up again next year, according to Lobbyist Susan Goldstein. And, as for Representative Wood, he had no thoughts on the veto, other than to say he’s “respects the constitutional authority of the Governor.”
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