May 3, 2023


Florida Lawmakers Don't Know What They're Doing With ESG (Molly Taft, 5/03/23, Gizmodo)

Incredibly, the bill's own sponsors seem to be in the dark as to how all these new restrictions will actually play out on the ground--and how they'll affect everyday Floridians.

"I'm sorry I forgot my magic 8-ball," Republican State Rep. Bob Rommel told a Democratic colleague when asked during a hearing in mid-March about how lawmakers would ensure Florida taxpayers don't lose money if the bill passes. In a follow-up question about the bill's green bond provisions, Rommel said that the state would be allowed to use a bond for projects like building a dike to protect portions of the Everglades.

"But if you're saying, 'hey, we're selling fairy dust to protect people from some unknown character in the world, they would be disqualified," he continued.

Unfortunately, the bill doesn't set parameters for making this distinction--and a lot of bonds used for climate mitigation projects, like building protections in the Everglades, are ESG bonds.

"It's unclear what the impact of this provision is going to be, but based on [Rommel's] description, it would invalidate some socially responsible bonds that would support some of the projects Rommel is describing," Haedtler said. "You could say the Florida attorney general is now empowered to decide which environmental projects they care about, and which they don't, and which green bonds they want to approve and which they want to scrutinize. That doesn't make me feel very good."

Many of the other states that have passed or considered anti-ESG laws have seen a lot of fallout from their decisions. Lawmakers in Indiana and North Dakota earlier this year backed down from proposed anti-ESG bills over concerns they would hurt small businesses; a board overseeing a Kentucky retirement fund in February told the state it would not comply with an order to divest from BlackRock. One study issued in January found that the countrywide push against ESG could cost taxpayers more than $700 million in higher payments. In January, Haedtler's consulting firm issued a memo that estimated that the cost of Florida's bill could be more than $300 million to taxpayers.

Of course, if there are any firms that do not consider what liability they may incur for violating environmental, social, and governance norms, Florida should be requiring them to do so. Happily, over 90% do now. 

Posted by at May 3, 2023 5:49 PM