DeSantis Vetoes Brevard Zoo Funding After Dispute with Republican Legislator


MELBOURNE, Fla. - A requested $2 million slate of funding for the Brevard Zoo was vetoed this week by Governor Ron DeSantis, likely as a result of a political dispute between the zoo and a Republican legislator. The zoo was hoping to use the funds to help create a new aquarium facility in Port Canaveral.

The dispute arose when Randy Fine, a Republican state Representative from Melbourne Beach, rented out a space at the Brevard Zoo to hold a fundraising event for his 2024 state Senate bid. The event was after the zoo closed on February 27th. Due to Fine's positions on transgender issues in Florida, a group of demonstrators assembled outside the zoo to protest Fine's event.

State Representative Randy Fine.
State Representative Randy Fine.

In the aftermath of the protest the Brevard Zoo confirmed it was considering no longer renting its spaces to campaign events, regardless of political party. The idea has not been formally adopted by zoo administrators, but the mere consideration of it was enough to frustrate Fine. In the weeks following the event, Fine abandoned his own request for the aquarium funding.

Now, as a number of budget items reach the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis, the Brevard Zoo's proposed aquarium is one of a number of casualties. Fine confirmed in interviews to state media outlets that he had, indeed, lobbied DeSantis regarding the zoo shortly before the funding was vetoed. He added, "in the state of Florida, if you go woke, you go broke", despite the Brevard Zoo's potential policy change applying equally to all politicians.

The Brevard Zoo is still expected to move forward with fundraising for its aquarium, as it's already almost $64 million into a $100 million fundraising goal. Groundbreaking may start as soon as next year.