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Florida Dems proposal against using DeSantis in toll program promotions fails

C.M. Guerrero
El Nuevo Herald

Democrats failed in attempts Tuesday to prevent the likenesses of Gov. Ron DeSantis or other politicians from being used to promote a program that would provide credits to frequent users of toll roads.

The House is expected Wednesday to give final approval to a $500 million proposal to provide the credits.

The Senate passed its version of the measure (SB 6-A) on Tuesday. As the issue went to the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, unsuccessfully proposed an amendment that would have prohibited the state Department of Transportation and toll agencies from using names or likenesses of elected officials to promote the credit program.

“I think we all know that the governor is anticipating running for president,” Driskell said before the meeting. “And I think we have seen him make some moves, particularly whether it was with gas-tax relief, or the relief that he provided to families in the form of checks, where he tries to use that in a way to bolster his public image.”

Rep. Christopher Benjamin, D-Miami Gardens, unsuccessfully offered a separate amendment that would have prohibited advertising the program. But bill sponsor Demi Busatta Cabrera, R-Coral Gables, said advertising is needed to help draw motorists who might go out of their way to avoid toll roads.

"At least in my district, my community, there are a lot of individuals who avoid toll roads to save money," Busatta Cabrera said. “And we want to make sure that they're able to save time on their commutes to and from work. So, let's make sure that they know about this and that they can take advantage of the savings. You know, there is no substitute for that extra time that they can have with their family in the morning or the evening.”

The program would provide 50 percent credits for a full year starting Jan. 1 to motorists with SunPass and other Florida transponder accounts that record 35 or more toll-road trips a month.

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