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Rick Scott Will Have His Revenge On Wildflowers

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RICK SCOTT FLORIDA WILDFLOWER LICENCE PLATE
Florida Gov. Rick Scott delivers remarks at .decimal, Inc. (pronounced 'dot-decimal') during a visit to the medical device manufacturer's facility in Sanford, Monday, April 29, 2013. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images) | Getty

Lord knows I should expect no end of perplexing behavior from Florida's fraud-tastic supervillain governor Rick Scott, but I am truly perplexed by one of his recent decisions. No, I'm not talking about his decision to sign a bill that blocks municipalities from enacting their own rules for mandatory paid sick days. In that case, Scott was simply caving in to the pressure from "Walt Disney World, Darden Restaurants, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and a broad array of powerful business interests who argued the ban was needed to avoid a patchwork of local employment rules for companies." That seems perfectly in keeping with what we are to expect from Scott.

I'm talking about his decision to veto a bill that would revise the fee that people voluntarily pay for the Florida Wildflower licence plate, the proceeds of which go to the Florida Wildflower Foundation, which in turn uses the money to, you know ... plant flowers.

How popular was this bill? So popular that not a single member of the Florida legislature, in either the House or Senate, cast a "nay" vote against it. You know how rare that is? This is the legislature that struggled, mightily, to ban bestiality. Any time you can get all these people to agree on something, that's a special occasion.

What they'd agreed to do, according to Michael Van Sickler of the Miami Herald, is increase "the annual $15 fee for the wildflower license plate by $10."

Lisa Roberts, the executive director of the Florida Wildflower Foundation told the Herald, "I'm stunned." And Van Sickler says that Scott's decision to veto the measure is "downright bizarre."

Just last month Scott approved a $25 specialty tag for Freemasonry. And on Wednesday, Scott approved a transportation bill that established license plates for three groups: the American Legion, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Lauren’s Kids, each one having a $25 fee for those who wanted to pay it.

Floridians like their wildflowers. Just a few days ago, Bill Varian of the Tampa Bay Times wrote a piece about Hillsborough County Commission board member Al Higginbotham's support for a plan that would bring more native Florida wildflowers to the side of the highways in Hillsborough:

If it works the way he hopes, the county would partner with private not-for-profits that encourage the planting of native wildflowers, some of which have been all but wiped out by sprawling development. Those groups, some including some that provide grant money, potentially would help train county employees in how and where to plant the flowers and keep them beautiful.

The proposal drew enthusiastic support from other commissioners when Higginbotham introduced it May 15 after a contentious debate about another issue.

"I'm a lover of wildflowers," gushed former Navy man Mark Sharpe. "I think this is kind of a cool item."

It is cool! And nice! It's flowers, for Pete's sake. And Varian went on to report that the state was already helping to allocate funding for these measures, through the Wildflower licence plate:

The Wildflower Foundation receives the proceeds from sales of an automobile license plates that features the image of a coreopsis. Sales have raised more than $3 million since the license plate was first offered in 2000.

It awards the money to local governments and other groups in a variety of grants used to train roadway managers or provide seeds for community or school wildflower gardens. By passing the resolution, Hillsborough commissioners open the door for the grant money and join 23 other counties in doing so.

The increase to the license plate fee -- which I'll remind you is something that people freely choose to pay, if they so desire -- was something the Florida Wildlife Foundation hoped might bring back some revenue, which had dipped of late. Again, people had to be willing to pay for it in order for this plan to be successful, so this was something of a gamble.

But the Florida legislature -- which again, passed the measure unanimously -- agreed that it was worth a try. Maybe Scott was somehow unaware that everyone who was helping to fund the Wildflower Foundation was doing so voluntarily. Oh, look, here's Scott's letter about the veto, which he sent to Florida's Secretary Of State, Kenneth Detzner. Maybe this will clear things up:

Dear Secretary Detzner:

By the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Florida, and Article III, Section 8, of the Constitution of Florida, I do hereby veto and transmit my objections to House Bill 265, enacted during the 115th Session of the Legislature of Florida, during the Regular Session of 2013, and entitled:

"An act relating to the Florida wildflower license plate…"

The bill increases the annual use fee for a specialty license plate; an expense in addition to the standard fees paid when registering a motor vehicle. Although buying a specialty license plate is voluntary, Floridians wishing to demonstrate their support for our State’s natural beauty would be subjected to the cost increases sought by this bill.

For this reason, I withhold my approval of House Bill 265 and do hereby veto the same.

But ... huh? Floridians wishing to demonstrate their support for Florida's natural beauty are making the affirmative choice to be subjected to these costs. Those who do not wish to pay the costs on behalf of Florida's wildflowers do not have to; they may simply obtain any other licence plate.

Well, the same Florida legislature that supported this bill unanimously can just override Scott's veto with a two-thirds vote. That would resolve the matter, though it won't explain this "downright bizarre" veto.

My colleague Gabrielle wonders, "Maybe Scott just has severe allergies?" Or maybe he secretly wants to funnel more people away from the expensive plates he approved into wildflowers without tipping his hand. Or maybe Rick Scott is in thrall to a powerful species of non-native bodysnatcher flowers from outer space, and their lobbyists. Who knows?

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]

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