On the next-to-last day of the recent session of the Florida Legislature, a senator from St. Petersburg slipped a little amendment into a bill about affordable housing that was destined for passage the next day.

The amendment received no scrutiny in committee hearings. It was approved by a voice vote in the rush of activity as the session was hurtling to a close. And it could sound the death knell for growth management in the state of Florida.

It’s “maybe the worst bill you never heard of,” says Paul Owens, president of 1000 Friends of Florida, the statewide nonprofit dedicated to building sustainable communities. He also calls it “one of the most pernicious pieces of legislation for Florida’s future to emerge from the 2019 session.”

Thanks to the amendment from Sen. Jeff Brandes, whose arms must be sore from carrying all that water for development interests, House Bill 7103 would make it much harder for any citizen who wants to challenge a local government’s development decision in court -- if they lose the case, they’d now have to pay the government’s legal fees. Basically, that avenue of protest will be closed to all but the wealthiest of citizens.

As of this writing, Gov. Ron DeSantis has not yet signed the bill, which was passed by both the House and Senate by wide margins on May 3, the session’s last day. If he truly means to be the “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist” he says he wants to be, he must veto this sneak attack on rational development.

A little background: By state law, every local government must adopt and maintain a comprehensive plan. These are blueprints for growth to make sure that each new strip mall, condominium or subdivision meets minimum standards, appropriate to the community, for flood protection, infrastructure and the like. The plan becomes local government’s guidebook: every development decision must be consistent with the plan.

Citizens still have the right to go to court and challenge a bad decision by their local government: a condo tower that exceeds a height limit, an apartment complex in a neighborhood of single-family homes.

But that right is now hanging by a thread. “Local governments won’t feel any legal pressure to heed the law,” says Owens.

Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th president, wasn’t merely a Republican who cared about the environment. He was a pugnacious progressive. A leader who relished a battle against special interests who trampled on what he saw as the public good.

If DeSantis wants to genuinely be a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist, he must show the same sort of backbone that his idol would -- and face down the developers, business people and road builders who would love to bury what’s left of Florida’s shredded growth-management controls.

DeSantis has selected an admirable role model. And now, faced with this bill, he should simply ask himself: What would Teddy do?

This editorial originally appeared in the Palm Beach Post.