DeSantis discusses protecting Florida's environment in Miami

Governor also says he intends to sign controversial bill into law

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor, Glenna Milberg - Reporter

MIAMI - Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered a speech on protecting Florida's environment during an appearance Tuesday afternoon in South Florida.

DeSantis spoke at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

The governor was joined by Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein.

DeSantis put environmental initiatives front and center during his campaign and in his State of the State address as lawmakers opened their annual session in March.

As one of his first announcements, he called for spending $2 billion over his four-year term for water quality projects and Everglades restoration. 

The Florida legislature backed him, ending its annual session last weekend with more than $682 million in environmental spending included in the state's new $91 billion budget. 

"We didn't get exactly $625 million. We got more than $625 (million). So its good," DeSantis said Tuesday.

DeSantis appointed Florida's first chief science officer last month to oversee environmental policy and practices. He is currently looking to appoint a chief resilience officer to direct state preparations for sea-level rise.

Despite the governor's call to ban fracking, lawmakers ended the annual session without passing legislation to do so.

When asked about a controversial bill that puts conditions on how felons get back their right to vote, DeSanits said he supports the measure and intends to sign it into law.

"What the provision requires is that people discharge all punishments, and get right with the law -- and that’s what I told the legislature," DeSantis said.

Almost two of three Florida voters approved the constitutional Amendment 4 in November to automatically restore voting rights for most felons when they completed their sentences.

The bill details what the amendment broadly states that restitution and other financial penalties are as much a part of a sentence as prison and probation.

Opponents call that a poll tax and a hindrance to voting. Supporters call it part of the consequence for crime that has to be paid.

"The idea that paying restitution is a tax -- totally wrong -- the only reason you’re paying restitution is that you’ve committed a felony," DeSantis said.

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