Governor Rick Scott and his administration are the least capable custodians of Florida’s land in our history. As a Governor who lived in this state for less than a decade before attaining Florida’s highest office, Scott could be excused for not knowing as much about the natural beauty of this state that long-term residents like myself do (though many move to this state specifically because of its natural beauty). But the Governor’s lack of appreciation for Florida’s environment, ecosystem, water and wildlife has become all more evident in recent years. What’s worse is that Scott has a Republican legislature that with a few exceptions is filled with ideological zealots who are anxious to continue to turn Florida into an experimental lab for every bad conservative think tank idea as well as every proposal that comes from business interests.
The recent discussion around hunting in State Parks which dovetails with the gruesome Bear Hunts of last month, put into context how out of touch with this state’s citizens the leadership in the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the legislature is.
Politicians and political appointees, particularly those from outside urban areas like to hunt. It is part of the game that politicians, lobbyists and others that seek favors from the state partake in. So any “idea” that combines the favorite pastime of lobbyists and legislators with generating revenue in a state determined to ensure no corporation, land holder or wealthy person is taxed fairly is bound to win favor with Tallahassee and GOP insiders.
As someone who patrons our state park system regularly, having visited facilities from the Western Panhandle to the Keys, I have long feared what would eventually happen to the parks with the Republicans have unchecked power in Tallahassee. For years we had some very good environmentally conscious Republicans that reached the heights of committee chairs in the Florida Senate that prevented any sort of madness like this proposal to see the light of day. We also had during Jeb Bush’s and Charlie Crist’s Governorship, DEP staffed with people who actually cared about this state and appreciated its natural beauty.
In contrast, under Governor Scott we have seen a real effort to gut any sort of protection for Florida’s natural landscape and an emphasis on “principles of business,” even though it has done little to positively impact this state. For Governor Scott and the current crop of GOPers, gutting the State Park system by allowing hunting and thus making this annoyance of a left-wing program useful for their political and ideological purposes is part of a larger plan.
The Republicans of 2015, unlike those they have succeeded in the party do not care about this state, do not understand why so many choose to live here and want to create any sort of scheme possible to generate revenue in order to justify continued tax cuts. The marriage of gutting the environment, engaging in a pastime politicos love and generating revenue without taxing businesses is for all intents and purposes the nirvana of what today’s Florida Republicans stand for.
Thankfully, this proposal isn’t getting a free ride from the state’s best newspaper columnists who have been vigilant in opposition to this point. But the opinion of knowledgeable, reasoned people has never dissuaded Governor Scott from doing what’s wrong for this state – let us hope this is different.