State/National News

OUR OPINION: Veto Candidates Offer Gov. Scott a Chance to Send Reform Message

By The Miami Herald Editorial

Gov. Rick Scott might need more than one pen if he were to veto every bad bill the Legislature passed, many of which were approved in the closing days when lawmakers have neither the time nor the inclination to put up a fight.

Many of these bills are local pork-barrel projects that Gov. Scott may be inclined to veto anyway, but another category includes bills that set the wrong priorities and policies for Florida.

• Exhibit A is the bill establishing a new state university, Florida Polytechnic. This is the brainchild of Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, who made it his top priority and bullied his colleagues into voting for it. Few in the Legislature dared say No to the powerful chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, so he got his way even though this action makes no sense and defies state plans for the orderly growth of higher education.

If the governor fails to veto this bill, Florida Polytechnic would spring into being in July, even though it has no faculty, students or accreditation — and even though lawmakers cut funding for higher education by $300 million. It’s a classic example of the rotten political culture in Tallahassee that Mr. Scott condemned when he ran for office. Vetoing this measure would send a message that he is serious about reform.

• Random drug-testing of state employees is nothing more than an insult to workers who have gone years without a pay raise because of the Legislature’s miscast budget priorities. Mr. Scott quietly approved this one late Monday.  What a waste. It’s already headed for a costly court battle and is manifestly unfair. Mr. Scott should have sent it back to legislators and declared that only after they include themselves in the drug-testing scheme would he approve.

• The governor should also take off the table legislation that tries to silence skeptics of PortMiami’s dredging project. It mandates that they secure an administrative hearing of their concerns in 30 days. It’s not just about this project. Such fast-tracking would set a precedent that would leave the environment vulnerable every time a bad idea arises reducing the protection of our natural resources.

• The “pink poodle” bill is a real dog, allowing the artificial coloring of animals as if they were Easter eggs. Some might consider it just one of those harmless pranks lawmakers are prone to engage in to relieve the stress, but it’s actually a form of animal abuse. It turns pets into objects of ridicule and leads many to a premature death when they unwittingly inhale the dye. Florida outlawed this horrible practice 50 years ago. Let’s keep it that way.

• HB 5301 is a more complicated, but equally wrong, bill involving a Medicaid cost-shift to the state’s 67 counties. It puts taxpayers in each county on the hook for what the Florida Association of Counties call the mistakes created when the state implemented a new electronic billing system in 2008. Of course, the biggest amount will fall on South Florida, especially Miami-Dade County. Instead of signing this bill, Gov. Scott should veto it and insist on fixing the flawed state system rather than passing the buck to the counties.

Unfortunately, there’s not enough room to go into the details of all the bad bills. Bills revamping high school sports, allowing for easier transfers and recruitment of athletes; and enabling student-led prayer at some public-school events are also strong veto candidates, among others.

Mr. Scott went to Tallahassee promising reform and an end to business-as-usual. Using his veto pen freely is one way to prove that he meant what he said.