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DeSantis Vetos Bill Adding EVs to State and Local Fleets

The $277 million bill would have required all state and local governments, colleges and universities to buy vehicles based on their lowest lifetime costs. Current law requires such purchases to be based on fuel efficiency.

Gov. Ron DeSantis was more concerned about Iowa corn farmers than Florida taxpayers when he vetoed a popular bill that could have saved the state $277 million by adding electric vehicles to state and local government fleets, a Democratic critic says.

More EVs would mean less of a demand for ethanol, which is processed from corn grown in states such as Iowa, the expected home to the first presidential caucus next year.

It’s another example of DeSantis putting his own political ambitions to be president over the needs of Floridians, said Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando.

“The Iowa caucus voters who are all about ethanol don’t see electric vehicles as something that is economically in their favor,” Eskamani said. “DeSantis is catering to his Iowa voters, not passing policy for Floridians.”

The electric car bill, SB 284, sponsored by Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Lake Mary, would have required all state and local governments, colleges and universities to buy vehicles based on their lowest lifetime costs. Current law requires such purchases to be based on fuel efficiency.

It ordered the Department of Management Services to make recommendations by July 1, 2024, to state agencies, colleges, universities and local governments about buying electric vehicles and other vehicles powered by renewable fuels.

“It allows us to look at procuring electric vehicles,” Brodeur said. “It doesn’t mean you have to purchase any.”

The governor’s veto last week was perplexing, supporters said. Both the Florida Natural Gas Association and the Sierra Club supported the measure, along with the Advanced Energy United and Electrification Coalition, a group that supports increasing the use of alternative-fuel vehicles.

“It was a common sense, good governance bill. There is nothing in this bill that any person in America should be against,” said former Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Tampa Bay Republican who tried getting similar legislation through last year.

The law could have saved state and local governments $277 million over 15 years by adding more electric vehicles to their fleets, said Michael Weiss, the Florida state lead at Advanced Energy United, a trade association of clean energy companies.

Advanced Energy United and the Electrification Coalition calculated the bill would have saved governments an average of $18,000 per vehicle by switching to an all-electric vehicle fleet, Weiss said. Using the state’s vehicle data provided by the Department of Management Services, they conducted a total cost analysis of the state’s fleet.

“This veto is a baffling decision that will cost Florida taxpayers millions of dollars,” Weiss said. “The Florida Legislature saw the clear economic and taxpayer benefits of a modern and efficient state fleet, but Gov. DeSantis somehow didn’t get the memo.”

It was only a few years ago that DeSantis touted the benefits of electric cars at a news conference announcing the construction of EV charging stations at rest stops along Florida’s Turnpike.

“It’s amazing how much cheaper it is to just charge a vehicle than to fill up a gas tank,” DeSantis said at the time. “And so as technology evolves, we hope that that’ll be reflected in people’s pocketbooks. So we want to make sure we have the infrastructure in place to make that a reality.”

His staff didn’t respond to a request to explain the veto.

The bill passed both chambers of the Legislature with just a single no vote, by Rep. Yvonne Hinson of Gainesville. But it is not likely anyone would even suggest trying to override the veto because of the governor’s immense grip on Tallahassee.

“That’s not going to happen,” Eskamani said.

Eskamani said DeSantis also has put personal politics first with culture war laws such as sexual orientation in schools, banning gay-themed books and drag shows, and making it harder for unions to collect dues.

She and other Democrats have pointed out problems such as soaring insurance premiums and a spike in housing costs that go unsolved.

“Not a single part of his agenda that passed is helping Floridians,” she said. “His agenda is tailored to the needs of Republican [primary and caucus voters].”

©2023 Orlando Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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