TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott signed 29 bills late Monday, including measures boosting spending on education, tourism marketing and economic development.
By signing the bills, and vetoing five more, Scott essentially closed the books on this year's regular and special legislative sessions.
The bills Scott approved included perhaps one of the hardest-fought wins of his time as governor: a measure (HB 1A) that provided $76 million for the tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida; established an $85 million fund to pay for infrastructure improvements and job training to help draw businesses; and set aside $50 million in repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike along Lake Okeechobee.
That legislation was approved in this month's special session, after the House refused to approve direct business incentives that Scott prefers and gave him far less for Visit Florida than he had requested during the regular session, which ended in May.
"With this legislation, we can promote public infrastructure projects and job training projects to continue to grow jobs for families in every community of our state," Scott said in a statement issued by his office. "We know that for Florida to be competitive in domestic and international markets, we need as many tools as possible to attract growing businesses to our state."
Scott also signed another bill from the special session (HB 3A) boosting per-student spending in the state's main formula for funding public education by $100. The budget for public schools had originally only increased spending by $24 a student, leading to charges from critics that it was too stingy and prompting a rare veto by Scott.
The governor hailed the increase Monday.
"Our students are the future of our state and I'm incredibly proud to sign legislation today to ensure they have every opportunity for success," he said.
During the special session, some Democrats had complained that the increase wouldn't offset what they said would be the negative impact of HB 7069, a controversial and wide-ranging education bill Scott approved shortly after the special session as part of a rumored deal with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes.
"It's an increase --- but at what cost?" asked Rep. Cynthia Stafford, a Miami Democrat who pointed out that funding for education is still short of pre-recession levels when inflation is factored in. "The state has recovered, but education funding has not."
Scott also signed several other education bills Monday, including a measure (HB 15) expanding eligibility for a program that helps pay for educational services for students with disabilities and boosting the size of voucher-like tax credit scholarships that help parents pay for private school tuition.
In addition, the governor approved HB 989, which overhauls the state's policy on instructional materials to allow any county resident --- not just parents --- to challenge materials used at schools.
In all, Scott signed 230 of the bills lawmakers approved during this year's regular legislative session, while vetoing 11. He signed all four bills that passed during the special session.