Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis has vetoed funding projects including $5 million for Palm Beach Atlantic University, and $250,000 for an internship program at Florida International University, requested by Black lawmakers who vocally opposed his Don’t Say Gay Bill and controversial congressional redistricting map.
DeSantis’ $3.1 billion in vetoes of the state’s $110 billion budget included the PBAU money sponsored by state Sen. Bobby Powell (D-West Palm Beach), and the FIU funds co-sponsored by state Rep. Marie Woodson of the 101st district, also a Democrat.
Powell and Woodson were among a group of Black state elected ofﬁcials who staged a sit-in outside DeSantis’ ofﬁce to protest his congressional redistricting map that gave Republicans an advantage for the upcoming midterm elections, and spoke out against DeSantis’ Don’t Say Gay Bill.
The bill gives parents greater control over their children’s education, vindicating their parental authority, but opponents said it unfairly targets the LGBTQ community, particularly gays and transgender students.
DeSantis retaliated against Walt Disney World for criticizing the bill by stripping the company of its self-governing power after calling a special session in April to address that particular legislation.
The governor also vetoed $80,000 that was requested for Bethune Cookman University, one of the state’s historically Black universities and colleges.
“We are meeting our obligations, funding key priorities and protecting the state budget against a Biden-induced recession,” DeSantis said during a news conference explaining the vetoes and blaming the president’s economic and energy policies for the nation’s sustained inflation. “We kept Florida open, protected people’s rights and saved jobs.” He added that Florida has outpaced the nation on all economic indicators.
The $5 million vetoed from Palm Beach Atlantic University had been earmarked for the college’s new business school. Powell requested the money during the 2022 legislative session to help the 54-year-old Christian college build the proposed sixstory, 100,000-square feet facility in downtown West Palm Beach.
It was part of the new master plan to update the PBAU campus and curricula. The university is undergoing an accreditation process with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and plans to double its existing 3,700 student population in the next seven years. The school currently has 64
undergraduate majors, 17 master’s programs and four doctoral programs. In 2020, the university received the largest private donation, $26 million for construction of a new building.
Powell couldn’t be reached for comment.
The $250,000 slashed from FIU’s courses and an internship program would have beneﬁted at least 200 university students, 8 percent of them minority students. The money would have covered student enrollment at The Washington Center, which since 1975 has welcomed more than 60,000 students to the nation’s capital for advanced studies and realworld experience. FIU facilitates the program, which is open to students statewide.
Woodson cosponsored the funding request with Miami Republican Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez. Woodson couldn’t be reached for comment.
The relationship between DeSantis and Black state lawmakers is strained, and efforts have been launched to help oust the governor in November.
The Black lawmakers have rallied for the Florida Stay WOKE Go Vote campaign, which encourages Black people to vote and lists the reasons for change, including Republican attacks on African Americans by eliminating representation, free speech, education and economic security for Black communities.
South Florida Sens. Shevrin Jones and Rosalind Osgood, and State Reps. Woodson, Dotie Joseph, Felicia Robinson, Christopher Benjamin and Daryl Campbell, are the faces of the Stay Woke Go Vote campaign.
More than 70 Black state lawmakers including Jones are supporting gubernatorial candidate and Congressman Charlie Crist, a Democrat, to unseat DeSantis in November.
Crist is facing Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried in the Democratic primary in August and leads in most of the polls. Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo, who dropped out of the gubernatorial race to run for Congress, has endorsed Crist.