Floridians may be “faced” with a few changes the next time they fill up at their local gas pump.
In compliance with a law that passed last legislative session, the Florida Department of Agriculture is finally removing stickers from gas pumps of their poster girl, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, after House Republicans threatened to take action against the self-promoting advertisements.
The stickers, displayed at thousands of gas stations across the state, showed the smiling face of Fried — the only statewide elected Democrat.
The new stickers no longer feature the ag commissioner, displaying only her name, office, and contact info for fraud purposes.
Fried drew the ire of Republicans after she replaced the previous stickers, which featured only the department logo and a code to express fraud, to a sticker that featured her picture. In addition to Fried’s face, the stickers said, “inspected and approved for accuracy,” and included her name, a web address, and phone number.
The change did not sit well Republican lawmakers, who claimed that the stickers with Fried’s picture were being used to gain free political exposure. Fried, however, claimed her face on the stickers had to do with establishing accountability.
In response to the stickers, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a budget implementing bill (SB 2502) last session to limit stickers affixed to gas pumps to only “a combination of lettering, numbering, words, or the department logo.” The law was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, taking effect on July 1.
But Fried’s outfit failed to remove the stickers in a timely fashion, resulting in “Stickergate” reaching a breaking point.
As a result, House Republicans put forth a budget proposal this legislative session that would’ve withheld nearly $20 million from programs under Fried’s direction if she failed to put together a plan to remove the stickers.
The new stickers are now replacing the old ones, with GOP leaders taking note.
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) February 17, 2020
But the change isn’t sitting well with others, with many calling the move a political stunt on the part of Republicans. Fried publicly denounced the partisan agenda, saying freezing department funds could “jeopardize active criminal investigations and the handling of tens of thousands of consumer questions and complaints.”
On Monday, Fried’s office released a statement on the changes.
“The new stickers are in compliance with current state law, are currently replacing the prior ones, and have been designed with feedback from disabled veterans to increase readability at the gas pump,” Director of Communications Franco Ripple told The Capitolist.