Five of the worst bills deserve a four-letter word: V-E-T-O | Editorial

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A most unsettling proposition: Gov. Ron DeSantis is the only person who can protect Floridians from the worst consequences of the legislative session. But, that’s where we are.

Since the session adjourned April 30, the trend is troubling but not surprising. DeSantis signed bills to make it harder to vote by mail in Florida and harder to change the state Constitution. His decisions will promote the use of dangerous vaping products by young people and greatly expand use of taxpayer money at private schools, with less accountability than at public schools.

He signed them all — and he’s just getting warmed up.

A train wreck of terrible decisions is headed DeSantis’ way. The session produced so much policy damage that we could probably come up with 55 targets for vetoes, but these five stand out as among the worst of the worst.

Energy preemption (HB 919)

Republicans don’t want your community taking long-overdue steps to require cleaner energy in your house or neighborhood, and they proved it by passing a one-size-fits-all bill that shifts energy policy regulation to the state. That includes politicians addicted to utility companies’ campaign money. (Tallahassee’s definition of “green.”)

This legislation makes it harder for communities to adapt to climate change and punishes them for leadership in moving to a cleaner and greener future. It retroactively abolishes clean-energy ordinances. A leading opponent of this bill, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, has cited Broward County for its efforts to cut carbon pollution and encourage clean energy sources. Those efforts may be doomed if DeSantis signs this bill, which makes it harder for communities to update their building codes to cope with sea-level rise.

Who do you want charting our energy future: your mayor who lives around the corner or a politician 500 miles away? DeSantis began his term as governor with some hopeful environmental steps. He could regain some of that momentum by killing this bill.

Home-based businesses (HB 403)

This bill poses the most immediate threat to Floridians’ quality of life by blocking cities and counties from sensibly enforcing local zoning laws to control home-based businesses. Under the guise of promoting free enterprise, it’s another Republican attack on home rule. Possibly coming to a street near you: boat repairs, scooter rentals and car stereo installations. (Hey, turn it up!)

If that won’t justify a veto, try this: It passed the Senate 19-18, with three senators present but not voting, a violation of Senate rules. One of the three was Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, who told us she was distracted talking to a colleague and the electronic voting system closed too fast. Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, called for a re-vote, but Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said Farmer’s point of order came too late.

If any one of the nonvoting three had voted no, this awful bill would not have passed. Only DeSantis’ pen can stop this abomination.

Seaports (SB 1194)

In a Capitol where they make it harder for citizens to vote or amend their Constitution, the inevitable next step is to nullify election results. Lawmakers revived this once-dead proposal by tacking a late-session amendment onto a transportation bill, wiping out three city referendums in Key West last November that banned large cruise ships from the island. If politicians can wipe out an election in the Keys, they can do it anywhere.

DeSantis has a chance to undo this damage, but hoping for his help in this case is like hoping for snow on Mallory Square. The Miami Herald reports that a leader of the referendum opposition, Mark Walsh, who operates the pier that handles most Keys cruise traffic, has donated nearly $1 million to DeSantis’ political action committee. As for trusting the voters, Bon Voyage.

Social media (SB 7072)

A centerpiece of the Republican culture wars agenda and DeSantis priority, this prevents social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook from blocking political candidates from their platforms and imposes steep fines if they do. It’s probably unconstitutional, but Donald Trump’s acolytes don’t care. It’s a response to Trump being banned on social media sites. Proving it’s for show, Republicans cynically added a special interest “carve out” for social media sites that own theme parks — Disney is a major campaign contributor here in Florida. This has nothing to do with you or our state. It’s the bill DeSantis wants to brag about it in the cornfields of Iowa when he runs for president.

Utility poles (SB 1944)

Here’s the Legislature at its worst, picking winners and losers and rewarding a rich and powerful donor, Florida Power & Light. The bill, by Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, interferes in a long-running regulatory fight between FPL and AT&T over payments for use of hundreds of thousands of utility poles, many of them in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

AT&T argued before the Federal Communications Commission that FPL overcharged it for five years and won a refund case in January, pending a final order. With two other FCC cases pending, FPL convinced lawmakers to shift pole disputes from the FCC to the state Public Service Commission, which has no expertise in the area and is subject to political pressure (the new PSC member, Gabriella Passidomo, is the daughter of the incoming Senate president, who is highly dependent on campaign money to get senators re-elected).

FPL gave nearly $5 million in the last election, mostly to Republicans. One more squiggly signature from DeSantis will reinforce a Tallahassee truism that special interest money trumps good policy.

The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board consists of consists of Deputy Editorial Page Editor Dan Sweeney, editorial writer Steve Bousquet and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Editorials are the opinion of the Board and written by one of its members or a designee. To contact us, email at letters@sun-sentinel.com.

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