The fallout from Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of a bill that would have allowed illegal immigrants to obtain Florida drivers licenses continued Wednesday as Democrats denounced Scott while the Republican chairman defended the governor and one GOP lawmaker said the bill should never have been passed.
The bill, HB 235, was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Darren Soto and in the House by Rep. Randolph Bracy, both D-Orlando. It sailed through the Legislature; it was approved unanimously in the Senate and with minimal opposition in the House.
In interviews Wednesday, both sponsors had harsh words for the governor.
Soto said the unanimity of the bill’s passage in the Senate and near unanimity in the House made Scott’s veto a “slap in the face” to the state’s Hispanic community. Since signing the bill would have given Scott a chance to mend fences with Hispanics still damaged from his stance favoring “Arizona-style” immigration enforcement during the 2010 primary, Soto said, Scott’s veto “just defies reason at this point.”
Bracy, however, thought he saw Scott’s reasoning perfectly.
After running hard to the right in 2010, Bracy said, Scott had moved back toward the center this session by supporting raises for Florida teachers as and backing Medicaid expansion. Vetoing the drivers license bill, Bracy said, gave Scott a chance to tack right again, to “shore up his base.”
But it might have gone too far, Bracy said, by alienating other voters.
“I think the voters will remember this come 2014,” Bracy said.
Bracy also stressed the amount of support the bill received in the Legislature.
“It caught me by surprise that the governor would go against his Republican colleagues,” Bracy said. “In essence, Governor Scott is thwarting the will of the people.
“I’m extremely disappointed in the governor. I hope people will remember it,”
On Tuesday, Soto called the veto an “anti-Hispanic bomb,” that would backfire on Scott during his re-election campaign.
Republicans, however, were more supportive of Scott. Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry criticized Soto’s description of the veto as an “anti-Hispanic bomb,” calling the statement “political theatrics.”
“Senator Soto’s recent divisive and inflammatory comments regarding HB 235 are offensive and inappropriate,” Curry said a statement Wednesday.
“Immigration is a serious and sensitive issue that affects millions in this country, and one shouldn’t engage in political theatrics on this topic. The governor made a decision not to grant special privileges to those whose status is uncertain.”
State Rep. John Tobia, a Melbourne Beach Republican and one of the who voted against the measure on the House floor, said he was glad Scott killed the bill.
“It was just another step on the legitimization of illegal immigration,” Tobia said, adding he was surprised there was so little opposition to the measure. Only Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, joined Tobia in voting against it.
“I wish more folks would have voted it down,” Tobia said.
Tobia said he understands the problems of illegal aliens who were brought here as children, but said the state shouldn’t be spending limited money to accommodate them.
“There are plenty more that are going through the process legally,” he said.
As to whether an “anti-Hispanic bomb” will blow back on Scott’s re-election chances, Tobia said he thinks more voters will look at the big picture.
“I would hope the electorate would focus on his strong job-growth numbers,” he said.
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