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Gov. DeSantis axes $21M for downtown St. Pete office to house 2nd District Court of Appeals

The plan fell victim to $1B+ in cuts fueled by a coronavirus-collapsed economy.

Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeals will not get $21 million to begin plans for a new home base.

Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the allocation Monday as part of his sweeping budget cuts prompted by massive revenue pit falls due to the coronavirus-fueled economic collapse.

Lawmakers approved $21 million to begin plans for a new office, likely in downtown St. Petersburg at the state-owned Sebring Building one Mirror Lake.

The appeals court is currently operating in leased space at a Stetson Law building near downtown Tampa after moving from its previous home in Lakeland due to unsafe air quality conditions at the aging building.

The current lease with Stetson expires in 2023, which would have given the state adequate time to secure a new permanent home.

DeSantis signed the state budget Monday, cutting more than $1 billion from the proposed $93.2 million budget. The cuts were expected, with DeSantis previously saying his budget decisions would be the “veto equivalent of the Red Wedding,” a reference to one of the most infamous episodes of Game of Thrones that say almost an entire family wiped out.

The 2nd DCA was a casualty in that effort, fueled by economic losses to the tune of $1.66 billion, largely driven by massive shortfalls in revenue as tourism all but disappeared in Florida amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project had been lauded not only as a way to find a permanent and more suitable home for the 2nd DCA, but as a potential boon for downtown St. Pete and Mirror Lake.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, whose district is nestled within St. Pete, called the project a “truly once in a multi-generational opportunity,” one that could fundamentally reshape the Mirror Lake area, according to St. Pete Catalyst.

The building was also ideal because it was already state-owned property.

The $21 million would not have paid for the entire project, but would have laid the foundation for a jumping off point and paved the way for future appropriations to get the job done.

Monday’s veto likely delays that process.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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