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Scott Vetoes Aquifer Bill, Signs 17 Others

Florida Legislature
Florida House of Representatives
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Wrapping up work from the 2018 legislative session, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed 17 bills and vetoed one measure, which he said could “muddle” Florida’s efforts to protect its underground water system.

The most contentious legislation was a bill (HB 1149) that would have allowed chemically treated, recycled water to be pumped into the state’s underground aquifers. Bill supporters said it would help increase the state’s drinking-water supply, while critics said it could lead to aquifer contamination.

In his veto message, Scott said he thoroughly reviewed the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, and he was “not convinced that this legislation will not muddle Florida’s protection of our aquifers.”

“The Department of Environmental Protection will remain focused on protecting Florida’s water resources and will continue to safeguard our aquifers under existing laws,” Scott wrote. “Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way.”

Scott said there were other “worthwhile provisions” in the bill but they did not outweigh his concerns about aquifer protection.

He urged lawmakers to consider enacting those proposals in future sessions, including a plan for implementing a major water project, known as the C-51 Reservoir, near Lake Okeechobee.

“Although this project is still in progress and not yet in use, local communities should have the ability to use the completed reservoir to bolster their water supply, as was the original intent of the project,” Scott wrote.

Scott also praised another provision in the bill that would have created a “blue star” program aimed at encouraging increased monitoring and maintenance of wastewater systems by utilities.

Among the bills signed by Scott was a measure (HB 55) that will allow people buying guns to use credit cards to pay for background checks. They have paid with personal checks, money orders or cashier’s checks.

Scott signed another bill (HB 495) aimed at increasing the availability of computer-science courses, including coding courses, in middle and high schools. Teachers who earn certifications in computer science and teach the courses can earn up to $1,000 in annual bonuses.

Scott endorsed another bill (HB 523) that would make it a third-degree felony to trespass on airport property where properly placed signs warn people to say off the grounds.

With Friday’s action, Scott has dealt with the 195 bills passed by the Legislature, which ended its annual session on March 11. He signed 193 bills and vetoed two.

The other bill rejected by Scott was a “local” bill (HB 1113) that would have expanded the governing board of the Palm Beach County Housing Authority.

The two bills vetoed by Scott is the lowest total of rejected legislation by the governor since the 2014 session, when Scott vetoed only one bill, which would have raised the speed limit on restricted-access highways.