Florida 2011 Legislature
Fallout from the 2011 Legislative Session
Click here for our letter to Governor Scott asking that he veto several bills from this session.
This legislative session was on the whole brutal for Florida’s natural resources. Four bills in particular are so egregious that SCCF is asking the Governor to veto them. We urge you to Take Action and join us in the effort to get these damaging bills vetoed. See our letter to the Governor below.
SB 2142 - Legislative Control of Water Management District
This bill allows the legislature to establish an annual cap on property tax collections for the state's five water management districts, independent of the current rate cap. In the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) it would reduce the FY2012 budget by $120 million, impacting funds for restoration of the greater Everglades including water quality and storage projects. The bill also gives the Legislature new line item veto powers over the District budget in addition to the Governor's veto authority, moving water management in Florida from a water supply, flood control and restoration agency to a political parlor game.
HB7207 – Growth Management
The changes resulting from this bill will not create jobs. One in five homes is vacant and the state has a 10-year surplus of commercial properties: clearly, smart growth management has not stood in the way of development. It will, however, put our state's natural resources at risk, encourage sprawl and reduce the input of citizens in exchange for planning by and for special interests. This bill dismantles the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and creates a Department of Community Development, makes it easier for developers to amend local land use plans while removing the ability of communities to hold referenda on comprehensive planning issues. It severely restricts the ability of the agency to oversee projects with regional or statewide impacts and eliminates the “needs” and financial feasibility tests for new growth.
HB 993 - Rulemaking
This bill makes rulemaking less open to public scrutiny and completely reverses the fundamental burden of proof process in permit challenges, making it harder for citizens to challenge bad permits.
HB 421 – Agricultural Exemptions
This bill retroactively allows agricultural activities to alter the topography of any tract of land, impede or divert the flow of surface waters and adversely impact wetlands, all without permits or mitigation to offset the loss of wetland habitat and functions. Worst of all, the exemption for an agricultural activity paves the way for the sale of land for development, clear of any wetland permitting or mitigation.
This bill will further protect agricultural interests from having to store or treat their runoff, instead allowing them to dump their stormwater in public waterways without consequences. With this bill, agriculture will be able to destroy wetlands and not have to pay for the loss of their functions, public benefits or wildlife habitat but taxpayers will have to pick up the bill to clean up the impacts and losses that result.
Some Good News from the Session on Water Quality
Thanks to your calls and letters some bills we fought on water quality did not pass:
• fertilizer legislation that would have pre-empted local fertilizer ordinances,
• a repeal of last year's septic tank maintenance and inspection requirements,
• a bill allowing sewage dumping on a landowner's own property rather than a waste treatment facility and
• a bill allowing ocean dumping of effluent into Southeast Florida's marine waters.
In addition, our local Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve office and Biscayne Bay on the east coast were preserved from cuts although four other offices were closed.
Florida Forever Funding
Florida Forever received no appropriation of funding this session but the legislature did approve spending authority of up to $305 million from the sale of surplused state-owned lands. The proposed surplus lands include lands with no natural resource value, and non-conservation lands like buildings, parking lots and prisons. We appreciate the legislature’s use of creative, temporary funding measures to keep the program active in this difficult budget.
Thanks to everyone who called and emailed legislators this session. Things may not have gone the way we urged but we were heard, confirming that every voice can make a difference and the bills that did not pass are the evidence.
The session maybe over for 2011 but public meetings about Florida’s redistricting begin across the state next month. Meetings in Southwest Florida are tentatively scheduled for August 29 - September 1. Now is the time to prepare and the legislature is looking for your ideas on redistricting. Using an online tool and information about the state's population and demographics, you can submit your own ideas about new district boundaries. Go to http://www.floridaredistricting.org/ to produce your map ideas and submit them to the House. Local Representatives Trudi Williams and Matt Caldwell are on the Senate redistricting committee.
Florida’s 2011 legislative session opened March 8, 2011 with a projected $4.6 billion deficit. By all accounts this will be one of our toughest sessions yet to protect natural resources. A few bills we are tracking this session include:
Agricultural Exemption for Wetland Impacts
The consequences of HB 421 and SB 1174 are especially damaging to south Florida. They would:
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.
- 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.
Take action! Write to Trudi Williams, Chair of Agricultural & Natural Resources Committee
and our entire legislative delegation (click here for contact info).
Copy the Governor's Environmental Policy Coordinator: Andrew Grayson (Andrew.Grayson@laspbs.state.fl.us).
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:
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 legislators to oppose HB 7129.
- 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
Click here for the text of the bill.
as part of the Everglades Coalition supports a "Resolution Supporting a
Strong and Cohesive System of Growth Management in the State of
Florida," prepared on February 1, 2011. Click here for the text of the Resolution.
Write our legislative delegation and House leadership (click here
for contact info)
Budget Cuts – Write to Preserve Critical Programs
Governor Scott's Budget
Governor Scott's budget cuts funding for a number of areas that affect local environmental issues. Click here for Gov. Scott's budget.
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 web site (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 (click here for contact info). Encourage them to invest in jobs for south Florida that will protect and enhance our water resources and economy.
coalition of engineers,contractors and other construction business
executives appealed to Gov. Rick Scott today to help keep and create
jobs by investing in Everglades restoration. For more info, click here. Posted 3/30/11
- Click here
for a Fact Sheet from the Everglades Foundation on the contribution
that restoration of the Everglades makes to the state's 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 (click here for contact info). 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% over the last three years. The current proposed cut is an additional 15% reduction that will close six Aquatic Preserve field offices, and eliminate 23 staff involved in restoration, education, research, and stewardship of Aquatic Preserves. Click here for CAMA fact sheet.
Take Action: Write/email your local state legislators and budget leaders in the Senate and House (click here for contact info) 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 (email@example.com).
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. Learn more...
Septic Tank Inspections
Senate Bills 168, 82 and 130 and and House Bills 13 and 167 would eliminate a statewide septic tank inspection and maintenance program 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. SB 1698 offers a compromise that we are tracking.
Numeric Nutrient Water Quality Criteria
HB 239 and SB 1090 and 1490 prohibits the implementation of the EPA’s (federal Environmental Protection Agency) proposed numeric nutrient water quality criteria and, instead, authorizes the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to adopt their own state standards.
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. In other good news, Governor Scott withdrew proposed cuts to state parks in recognition of the tremendous fiscal asset they represent.