OUR POSITION: Whether they were the right moves or not, Gov. Ron DeSantis surprised his Republican colleagues in the Legislature last week with at least three vetoes they never saw coming.
Gov. Ron DeSantis surely had his reasons for vetoing three Republican-sponsored bills that sailed through the Legislature this year — even with some Democrat support.
But when he killed bills that would bolster civics education, help juveniles hide arrest records and reform no-fault auto insurance, it left even some of his closest GOP allies scratching their head. Us too.
It’s hard to say which was the most surprising veto. A bill that would put more emphasis on teaching civics in the classroom and a bill that would expunge the arrest records of juveniles both survived the Legislature with nary a negative vote. Both were overwhelmingly approved by the Republican-dominated Senate and House.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, led the fight to get the civics bills (HB 5 and SB 1108) passed to allow students to experience what they learned in class by accepting internships with government agencies, attending U.S. citizenship naturalization ceremonies and other activities that gave them a real experience of how government works outside school doors. It would have established a Citizen Scholar Program at the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus that would have given students an opportunity to earn a college credit.
DeSantis, in vetoing the bills, said Brandes’ bill “risks promoting the preferred orthodoxy of two particular institutions.” The veto came after The National Review ran an article saying DeSantis should veto the bill, suggesting it left open the possibility of teaching critical race theory in Florida schools, according to the News Service of Florida.
The veto of SB 274 which would have allowed juvenile offenders to have their records expunged was another surprise.
Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, who sponsored the bill said he believed it was an important one while DeSantis said his veto came because he felt the bill could have a negative impact on public safety. One goal was to open more doors to employment for people who had made mistakes in their adolescent years.
Finally, SB 54 would have made big changes in Florida’s auto insurance laws which have not had updates in decades. The bill would have done away with no-fault insurance and required about every driver in Florida to get a new policy.
Medical providers and attorneys, both big contributors to DeSantis’ campaign, were strong contingents against doing away with no-fault insurance. Two Republican sponsors of the bill, Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, and Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, had to be disappointed and surprised after the bill cruised through the Legislature with little hint that DeSantis was against it.
If it had avoided the veto, the new law would require every motorist in the state to carry a higher minimum amount of auto insurance and make drivers who are the cause of an wreck responsible for the cost. It would have done away with the requirement that all motorists in Florida carry $10,000 in personal injury protection coverage. Whether the changes would have cost more or saved drivers money was debated by opponents and supporters.
DeSantis’ actions proved one thing, and that is that any bill passed in the Legislature — even with heavy Republican support — is not OK until the governor says so.