TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have allowed some young immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to apply for a temporary driver's license.
Scott, a Republican whose maverick campaign for governor was aided by his tough stance on immigration, vetoed the legislation even though it had been overwhelmingly passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature.
Only two legislators - both of them Republicans - voted against the bill.
One of the Democratic sponsors of the bill contended Scott's decision to veto the bill could trigger a backlash in a state with a significant number of Hispanic voters.
The proposed measure would allowed anyone who had been approved for deferred action under an Obama administration policy to use that status to apply for a temporary driver's license that would last for at least one year.
But in his veto message, Scott questioned the legality of the federal policy announced last June.
"It was never passed by Congress, nor is it a promulgated rule," Scott wrote. "Given that deferred action status does not confer substantive rights or lawful status upon an individual, Florida is best served by relying on current state law."
It's not clear how many individuals would have been able to rely on the measure (HB 235) because Florida already allows someone with a work permit to get a temporary license. Those who are given deferred action status can obtain a work permit. But allowing the use of deferred action status could have speeded up the process for some young immigrants.
The Obama administration policy to defer deportation on certain immigrants applied to those under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012 and who came to the United States before they reached the age of 16. Other requirements include that a person seeking the status is either in school, had graduated or had served in the military and had not been convicted of a felony.
Scott's veto quickly came under fire, especially from Democrats, who said it could have helped young immigrants who need a driver's license in order to get a job.
"I view this as an anti-Hispanic veto," said Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando and one of the sponsors of the bill. "This strikes me as very political."
Scott, who had never run for political office before his 2010 campaign for governor, seized on immigration as a key issue during his bitter Republican primary against then-Attorney General Bill McCollum.
Scott ran ads attacking McCollum because the veteran political had shifted his stance on whether or not an Arizona-styled enforcement bill should be passed in Florida.
The Legislature took up an immigration measure during the 2011 session but the bill died after a divisive debate. Since that time, Scott has not championed or pushed state legislators to take any additional action.
Additionally, Scott has angered some conservatives for some of his recent decisions, including his reversal on whether to support the expansion of Medicaid.
The governor's move comes at a time when Florida's most prominent Republican - U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio - is trying to shepherd an immigration overhaul through Congress.