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Local groups lobby in Tallahassee

By Staff | Apr 18, 2017

Last week marked a step forward for a water quality initiative.

Sen. Rob Bradley and Sen. Joe Negron’s SB 10 passed the Florida Senate in a 36-3 vote and has moved on to the House.

Captain Daniel Andrews, co-founder of Captains for Clean Water, brought between 300 and 500 people into Tallahassee April 11 for the NowOrNeverglades Sportfishing Day, spending the day meeting with legislators and lobbyists to tell the story of poor water quality’s devastating effect on anglers, boat manufacturers and charter companies like his own as well as the threat to fisheries and habitats in coastal waters.

Andrews is excited the Senate approved, and hopes the House will pass it without much more revision.

“There was very strong support for (SB10),” he said. “That’s encouraging, it sends a strong message. Now we have to get the House to follow suit.”

The bill’s already been compromised and Andrews doesn’t want it cut down more. Originally, the bill invoked immediate action to store and treat water south of Lake Okeechobee by pursuing 60,000 acres of land. After working with stakeholders, the bill was altered to begin with the South Florida Water Management District first running modeling to see what state-owned lands can be converted to water storage, and how much more would need to be purchased from a willing buyer for storage and treatment.

“As it sits, it still provides meaningful benefits,. Not as much at the 60,000 acres but it’s a step in the right direction,” Andrews said. ” We’ve already compromised on this. Now the House wants to compromise even more. We’re pretty set on it. We want it to have meaningful results.”

The House will have to take action by the first week of May, the last week of session, to avoid going into special session.

Overall, Andrews thought the Sportfishing Day was successful in a two-way street. It helped legislators understand who was truly being impacted by water quality issues, as well as educate Florida business owners and residents how the government system worked and how to get involved.

“We’re not here to stop the discharges,” he said. “This whole thing is one huge system and the one solution for the whole thing, send the water south.”

Andrews and Captains for Clean Water wasn’t the only southwest Florida organization in the state Capitol last week.

Sportfishing Day coincided with the SWFL Regional Days, during which the SWFL Chamber of Commerce and the Royal Palm Coast Realtors Association also spent the week speaking to legislators. The SWFL Clean Water Movement also made plans to meet with legislators April 11 to discuss water quality.

“SB 10 was number one topic all the way around. Every conversation started and ended with water quality,” said Jacki Liszak, owner of the Sea Gypsy and the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce president.

While water quality was definitely on her mind, another of Liszak’s concerns is the upcoming reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program. Due for renewal in September, the flood insurance program is surrounded by questions and concerns for skyrocketing premiums.

She joined a group who bussed up to the Capitol, including Donna Germain, president of the Cape Coral Chamber; Ric Base, President of Sanibel Captiva Chamber; Dave Miller of the Chamber of SWFL, and Chris Lopez with Royal Palm Coast Realtors Association, among others.

Liszak’s philosophy at the Chamber was no different than her approach at the Capitol: don’t complain without coming up with a solution.

“I spoke extensively about flood insurance. I made some amazing connections,” Liszak said. “I’m going to get involved in finding a program that will work for us.”

There are opportunities to get involved, and she was appreciative of the experience to learn more about the governmental process. She said the lawmakers she met with were gracious and happy to see people representing their regions. Just to name a few, Liszak and her group got face time with Senators Liz Benacquisto and Senator Kathleen Passidomo; Representatives Ray Rodrigues, Dane Eagle, Heather Fitzenhagen, Matt Caldwell, Byron Donalds, Bob Rommel, and the Florida Department of Transportation.

“I was pleased and proud to represent,” she said. “My takeaway is the opportunity to get involved is there.”