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DeSantis rejects $175 million in tasks in newest brush with state lawmakers – Tampa Bay Instances

TALLAHASSEE — The $2.5 million {that a} panel of lawmakers granted last month to the West Klosterman Preservation Group was supposed to avoid wasting the 14 acres of untouched forest in Pinellas County from improvement.

However the grant was killed together with monetary pledges for scores of different tasks throughout the state after Gov. Ron DeSantis did not take a mandatory step to distribute the cash.

The awards have been a part of a provision for “native help grants” tucked into the state finances that the governor had signed in June.

The panel of lawmakers awarded 238 tasks final month throughout Florida value $175 million, including more than 30 in Tampa Bay. The 2-year battle to avoid wasting the West Klosterman land appeared received.

However with no announcement, DeSantis did not distribute the cash to state businesses by a Sept. 30 deadline dictated by state legislation, that means the $175 million of native tasks throughout the state are actually unfunded.

“The protect is environmental resiliency,” mentioned Kay Carter, treasurer of the West Klosterman group. “I really feel it’s shortsighted to proceed to go away tasks like this unfunded and unprotected.”

With the state flush with billions of {dollars} in reserves, the transfer is a not-so-subtle dig at Republican lawmakers and the newest assertion of energy from Florida’s boundary-pushing governor.

DeSantis’ workplace didn’t reply to a number of requests for remark.

Though legislators enacted DeSantis’ hard-right agenda this yr, the governor vetoed more than $3.1 billion from the budget that included high priorities for Republican leaders.

Associated: DeSantis cuts GOP priorities as he approves $110B budget

The supply for native help grants was purported to be a manner for legislators to nonetheless fund some tasks in mild of the vetoes. Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, sponsored the native grant request for the West Klosterman land after an appropriation for the group was a part of DeSantis’ veto record earlier within the yr.

Nevertheless, after the Joint Legislative Price range Fee named the grant recipients final month, DeSantis was nonetheless required to spell it out in a memo for state businesses to distribute the funds.

The state finances — which DeSantis signed into law — mentioned, “the Government Workplace of the Governor shall submit (the memo) … no later than September 30, 2022.”

As a result of the deadline got here and went with out the governor taking motion, the cash now goes again into the state coffers.

Home Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, who championed the thought behind the help grants, didn’t reply to a message looking for remark.

The 33 now-unfunded tasks in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties included environmental, public security and infrastructure tasks that native leaders noticed as crucial priorities.

Town of Clearwater misplaced $500,000 that may have helped construct wave attenuation partitions on the downtown waterfront, which Mayor Frank Hibbard mentioned is an infrastructure want for pure disasters like Hurricane Ian.

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“I’m very upset that the merchandise was initially vetoed and now misplaced on this course of,” Hibbard mentioned. “We’re attempting to harden the marina for occasions like we simply skilled in Florida.”

The record of misplaced tasks additionally contains $3 million for the creation of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Workplace Excessive Legal responsibility Coaching Heart to assist hone pursuit skills for law enforcement officers.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri declined to remark.

The College of South Florida St. Petersburg took the most important loss: $15 million for a facility to accommodate the Florida Flood Hub for Utilized Analysis & Innovation.

Zephyrhills was in line for $2.75 million for a brand new indoor athletic middle on the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis and Wellness Heart, which can now be placed on maintain, mentioned Metropolis Supervisor Billy Poe.

Latvala, who sponsored grant requests for 9 native tasks totaling $6.4 million, declined to remark concerning the lack of funds.

The governor’s determination to not assign the cash is simply the newest expansive use of DeSantis’ energy.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have questioned his use of state cash to ship migrants to Martha’s Winery final month.

Though the state finances mentioned this system had for use to ship migrants “from this state” to different states, DeSantis mentioned he couldn’t find migrants in Florida. He has spent greater than $1.5 million to ship migrants from Texas to Martha’s Winery.

One state lawmaker is suing him over the discrepancy. Neither DeSantis nor his spokespeople have offered any particulars about how this system complies with the legislation.

When the Legislature this yr imposed penalties on college districts that enacted masks mandates in fall 2021, in opposition to the foundations and pointers set forth by his administration, DeSantis told the Department of Education to ignore the law.

And in August, DeSantis eliminated Hillsborough County State Legal professional Andrew Warren for signing on to memos stating he wouldn’t implement legal guidelines limiting abortion or transgender well being care.

The transfer was thought-about a rare attain of the governor’s powers. Warren has sued in federal court docket, alleging his free speech was violated, and the case is ready to go to trial in federal court docket later this yr.

Instances employees author Barbara Behrendt and the Information Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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