Governor approves first legislation since start of pandemic

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
April 9, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Governor Ron DeSantis has signed his first round of bills into law since his focus shifted to COVID-19 response.

While the governor had said he planned to delay any action on legislation unless it could be immediately helpful during the crisis, some of the bills he signed appear to have little relevance.

“If there's something in that stack of bills that would be effective immediately that would help things that would be different,” said DeSantis.

The governor has now reauthorized Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, which could help the state recover when the crisis subsides.

He also approved $47 million in hurricane preparedness and back to school sales tax holidays, potential economic relief for some struggling Floridians.

But new restrictions on the citizen initiative process signed Wednesday have voter groups crying foul.

“While we're all focused on keeping our families safe things like this are happening in the Governor's Office,” said Aliki Moncrief with the Florida Conservation Voters.

Moncrief said COVID-19 already has many petition efforts on hold.

Now they’ll face shorter deadlines and higher signature requirements when they start collecting signatures again.

“It's not only that they're not going to help in this crisis, but they're going to hurt in the long term Floridians' ability, in the instance of the citizens’ initiative bill, Floridians' ability to access our democracy,” said Moncrief.

The Governor also approved legal holiday fireworks, changes to the Florida Kidcare program, reauthorized the ABLE program and signed a public records exemption for law enforcement communication infrastructure locations.

Incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson defended the Governor, arguing he has to balance his duties.

“The governor has to also be the governor right? He has to, the legislation that we passed will either be signed or vetoed. The budgets that we put into place will be signed or vetoed,” said Simpson.

The governor has also suggested the mandatory E-Verify bill passed this year could be one of the first signed, but so far he has not received it from the Legislature.