‘Negligent’: Ron DeSantis Sparks Backlash for Blocking Pollution Warnings to Beachgoers

By: Georgia | Published: Jun 28, 2024

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is facing intense scrutiny after vetoing a bipartisan bill that would have warned beachgoers about unsafe water conditions. 

Aimed at ensuring public safety, the bill would have required health advisories under certain water quality conditions. The Tampa Bay Times has highlighted the growing controversy over the governor’s decision.

What the Vetoed Bill Entailed

The now-vetoed proposal sought to empower the Florida Department of Health to close beaches to protect public health, safety, and welfare when necessary. 

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Informational sign at a beach entrance warning about the presence of red tide, detailing potential health effects like skin irritation and respiratory issues.

Source: Florida-Guidebook.com/Unsplash

Max Chesnes from the Tampa Bay Times emphasized that the bill would have also accelerated the notification process regarding water quality issues from local entities to the state health department.

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DeSantis Cites Concerns Over State Overreach

Governor DeSantis and his surgeon general have publicly opposed the bill, calling it “ill-advised” and expressing concerns over state encroachment on local governance. 

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Governor Ron DeSantis smiling as he speaks at a podium, with an American flag in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

They argued that it could lead to the state overriding local decisions about beach closures, favoring local control over state mandates.

Echoes of Pandemic Beach Closures

This veto mirrors Governor DeSantis’ stance during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when he briefly shut down beaches, only to reopen them shortly thereafter, declaring Florida as “free.” 

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'Beach Closed' sign with a notice stating it's effective from March 20, 2020

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This was at a time when Florida was experiencing high rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths, though the governor often downplayed these statistics.

Cross-Party Support Fails to Save Bill

Democratic State Representative Lindsay Cross, a sponsor of the bill, expressed her disappointment over its failure, despite unanimous support across party lines in the legislature.

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A woman in a blue shirt and gray skirt standing proudly in front of a large American flag

Source: Representative Lindsay Cross/Facebook

She noted to reporters, “Our water quality issues are not going to go away, and ignoring it is not going to solve the problem.”

Surprise and Disappointment at Veto Decision

The veto came as a surprise to many, including Rep. Cross, who believed the governor would not reject a bill with such strong bipartisan backing, aimed at protecting public health. 

Aerial view of Florida's coastline showing clear turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and a bustling beachfront with buildings and beachgoers

Source: Michael Monahan/Unsplash

She stated, “I thought there was no way the governor would veto something that was sponsored by a bipartisan slate of elected officials with unanimous approval in both chambers that would protect people’s public health.”

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Mixed Reactions Among Republicans

While the veto has faced criticism, some Republicans have stood by the governor’s decision. 

Close-up portrait of an elderly woman with curly light hair smiling at the camera, standing against a green leafy background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

State Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman voiced her support, saying, “I totally respect his position,” highlighting the respect for gubernatorial discretion.

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Veto Could Influence Political Image

This contentious veto might play a significant role in shaping Governor DeSantis’ political image, especially among constituents who value environmental safety and public health initiatives. 

Governor Ron DeSantis delivering a speech outdoors, dressed in a blue shirt and dark jacket

Source: Wikimedia Commons

It casts a spotlight on the ongoing debate over environmental advocacy versus governmental control in the state.

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DeSantis’ National Political Ambitions

Following his 2022 reelection, Governor DeSantis has been strategically boosting his national presence, eyeing a future presidential campaign. 

Governor Ron DeSantis speaking intensely at a podium with a blurred red background, wearing a dark suit and blue tie

Source: Wikimedia Commons

His policies, including this veto, are part of an effort to strengthen his appeal to conservative voters across the country.

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Clashing with Trump on the National Stage

Governor DeSantis’ ambitions have led to notable clashes with former President Donald Trump, impacting his political journey and complicating his plans for higher office. 

Governor Ron DeSantis standing with former President Donald Trump and two women in a room draped with blue curtains and American flags

Source: Wikimedia Commons

These clashes have been defining moments in his career, shaping his electoral strategies.

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The Environmental Debate Intensifies in Florida

The governor’s veto has ignited a robust debate on the prioritization of environmental policies in Florida. 

Aerial shot of a busy Florida beach showing people enjoying the sandy shore with numerous blue umbrellas and a clear blue sea

Source: Sophia Simoes/Unsplash

Critics argue that this decision could undermine essential protections needed to ensure public health at the state’s beaches.

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The Future of Florida's Beaches

As discussions continue, the fate of beach safety and environmental policies in Florida remains uncertain. 

Aerial view of a sunlit beach with palm trees lining the boardwalk, numerous beach umbrellas, and people enjoying the sandy beach and turquoise waters

Source: Lance Asper/Unsplash

The state’s approach to managing these issues is under scrutiny as both the public and lawmakers reassess the balance between state authority and local governance in environmental health.

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