The governor’s mansion in Tallahassee has been home to Republican leadership for the past 20 years. Now that Sen. Rick Scott has passed the baton to Gov. Ron DeSantis, what can we expect to change in Florida’s executive branch?
Will DeSantis’ policies differ from his predecessor? It depends on which Ron DeSantis we get.
The most obvious deviation between the Scott and DeSantis administrations appears to be their posture toward environmental policy. DeSantis has long been an opponent of the sugar industry’s disproportionate voice in Florida politics, a sentiment broadly shared by the Florida electorate.
This could be proof that DeSantis is a “Teddy Roosevelt Conservationist” as he claims. However, when you put the rest of his political career in context it becomes clear that DeSantis is a wolf in environmentalist’s clothing.
DeSantis’ stance on the sugar industry was one of the clear distinctions between himself and Adam Putnam, his opponent in the Republican primary. This was also out of step with Sen. Scott who received $100,000 from U.S. sugar, for his political action committee during his time as Governor.
The reason DeSantis’ position on the sugar industry is encouraging is that the industry has a continuous habit of polluting South Florida’s water reservoirs with phosphorus found in their fertilizer, which is one of the main contributors to the state’s toxic algae crisis, which includes red tide. DeSantis has been making sweeping declarations about how he intends to tackle this crisis, but it is important to put his statements in their proper context.
It is true that he has a better track record as it pertains to the corrupting impact of big sugar, but that doesn’t mean that environmentalists should put their complete trust in the new governor.
He has attempted to play both sides on the issue of climate change, by claiming to be neither a climate change “denier” nor a climate change “believer.”
Statements like this should give any environmentalist pause because they show a real lack of concern for one of the greatest environmental challenges we have ever faced. He may show concern over the issue of toxic algae, but he is very flippant about issuing any kind of change that will preserve our environment in the long term.
His belief seems to be that taking action to counteract the effects of climate change should be the federal government’s burden to bear. However, while he was in Congress, and actually had influence in the federal government, he voted along with Republicans to limit the government’s ability to assess the impact of climate change.
This alone should be enough to question his environmental credentials.
While the distance DeSantis has placed between himself and the sugar industry should encourage environmentalists, they should not be fooled into believing DeSantis is on their side.
Considering that Florida will be affected the most by rising sea levels, we should be the ones leading the way on clean renewable energy.
At a time in which hurricanes are growing stronger in our own backyard due to a changing climate, Floridians deserve more than neutrality on this all-important issue.
Jared Sellick is a junior majoring in political science.