Call and write the Legislature – Your voice is needed to protect our resources
Florida’s 2011 legislative session opened a month ago with a projected $4.6 billion deficit and it is turning out to be one of our toughest sessions yet to hold onto good legislation achieved in prior years and keep bad legislation from becoming law. Here at midpoint in the session are a few high priority bills we are working on and actions you can take to help.
Additional information and links to legislators’ contact information can be found at www.sccf.org; click on Policy/Florida 2011 Legislature.
#1 Bad Bill – Agricultural Exemption for Wetland Impacts – TAKE ACTION to Protect Wetlands
The consequences of HB 421 and SB 1174 are especially damaging to south Florida. They would:
• Entitle agriculture with retroactive permit exemptions for agricultural impacts to surface waters and wetlands;
• Transfer regulation of public water resources – both surface and groundwater- from the state water management districts to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; and
• Waive mitigation of wetland impacts from agricultural activities.
Splitting the management of water resources between multiple agencies would undermine any effort to holistically manage our region’s most critical public resource. It would further aggravate existing problems with the volume, timing and distribution of water, causing additional harm to our natural systems and private nonagricultural landowners. And worst of all it creates a loophole and end-run around wetland protection and mitigation rules so that agricultural landowners would be incentivized and entitled to destroy wetlands — no permits or mitigation required — and sell the land for development. This bill would make current Ag exemptions and rent-a-cow schemes seem innocuous.
Take Action: Write to Trudi Williams, Chair of Agricultural & Natural Resources Committee and our entire legislative delegation (website listed above). Copy the Governor’s Environmental Policy Coordinator: Andrew Grayson (Andrew.Grayson@laspbs.state.fl.us).
Budget Cuts – Write to Preserve Critical Programs
During the budget crisis of the past two years there has been $50 million for Everglades restoration, down from $200 million just a few years ago. This year, the House has proposed just $26 million and the Senate a mere $2.1million. Such deep cuts at this critical time would be a devastating blow to the momentum of the last few years that has finalized planning and initiated construction on critical projects.
The fact is that Everglades restoration creates private sector jobs, and provides a 4-to-1 return on investment. Read the Mather Economic Report on our website (listed above). Everglades restoration protects the drinking water supply for millions of south Floridians, it’s critical to the economic engine in southwest Florida and protects an International World Heritage Site.
Take Action: Contact the Governor’s office and our entire legislative delegation (website listed above). Encourage them to invest in jobs for south Florida that will protect and enhance our water resources and economy.
Florida Forever and its predecessor land acquisition programs have saved almost 9.4 million acres of Florida’s most environmentally sensitive and historic native habitats that serve as parks, wildlife habitat and corridors and refuge from our urban landscapes. After 44 years, there is no budget this year… only an allowance to spend up to $308 million that would come from the sale of State-owned lands being sold as “surplus.” A strong acquisition program is needed to protect the very best of Florida, our water supplies, our wildlife and our natural heritage.
Take Action: Contact the Governor’s office and our entire legislative delegation (website listed above). Ask them to provide funding for and an investment in Florida.
Coastal & Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA)
CAMA is responsible for managing Florida’s most pristine coastal and marine resources including over four million acres of submerged lands within 41 Aquatic Preserves, three National Estuarine Research Reserves, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The House and Senate budgets propose cutting over $1 million in essential state funding that supports protection and conservation of Florida’s Aquatic Preserves. This program has been cut 25 percent over the last three years. The current proposed cut is an additional 15 percent reduction that will close six Aquatic Preserve field offices, and eliminate 23 staff involved in restoration, education, research, and stewardship of Aquatic Preserves. See our website (listed above) for CAMA fact sheet.
Take Action: Write/e-mail your local state legislators and budget leaders in the Senate and House (web site listed above) and urge them to support the Governor’s recommendation for Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA). Write to thank the Governor for preserving funding (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Senate Bill 606 and House Bill 0457 would delete the authority of counties and municipalities — including the City of Sanibel and Lee County, who passed the first local ordinances — to adopt fertilizer management practices more stringent than the weak statewide model ordinance. Local communities must have the authority to address local sources of pollution. While we continue to push for stronger fertilizer legislation, we thank local Representatives Gary Aubuchon and Trudi Williams for their commitment to protect existing local ordinances.
Septic Tank Inspections
Senate Bill 1698 is a compromise bill that would preserve a statewide septic tank inspection and maintenance program which north Florida interests are trying to have removed from legislation that we worked hard on and passed last year. The program is designed to keep nutrient pollution from malfunctioning septic systems from seeping into state waters. Inspection of septic systems is a
responsible way of protecting the public health, safety and welfare and addressing pollution sources at a reasonable cost. The bill has had a flurry of amendments proposed and will be heard next week.
Take Action: Write our legislative delegation and House and Senate leadership in support of a mandatory statewide inspection and maintenance program for septic systems in Florida (website listed above).
Growth Management Reversal
HB 7129 undermines Florida’s landmark growth management system, essentially turning back the clock to the 1960s and 1970s when there was no planning for growth, development interests were unchecked, public resources were exploited, and growth controls were minimal. The bill:
• Severely limits citizens’ rights to appeal inappropriate local government planning decisions
• Nearly obliterates state oversight coordinating growth between counties and shifts almost all decision making to local governments
• Limits local governments’ ability to charge developers for the costs of new roads and schools, instead shifting the cost burden of new development to existing taxpayers — even when the development is deemed unneeded and financially infeasible.
• Allows large-scale development without any certainty that conservation lands will be preserved.
Take Action: Write your legislative delegation and House Leadership (website listed above). Coordinated growth management between 67 counties of Florida is essential to protect our state’s natural resources such as drinking water, our state’s transportation system and our rights as citizens to contribute to the planning process. Ask them to oppose HB 7129.
Repeal of Fishing Licenses
Senate Bill 744 would repeal Recreational Fishing Licenses for residents and nonresidents to fish in state waters. This bill, which does not yet have a house companion bill, would eliminate the source of essential funding that supports fisheries management, law enforcement and research. Lee County receives the second highest revenue in the state for saltwater fishing licenses, second only to Monroe County. Eliminating license fees would forfeit millions in restoration fund money and eliminate anglers’ direct investment in fisheries.
Some good news…
Good news includes the withdrawal of House and Senate Bills proposing to build golf courses in state parks. Nicknamed the Jack Nicklaus Golf Trail, this terrible idea has been withdrawn by sponsors Rep. Pat Rooney (former SFWMD Governing Board member) of West Palm Beach and Sen. John Thrasher of St. Augustine.