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New rules and the fallout from the 2011 legislative session

May 18, 2011
Guest commentary by RAE ANN WESSEL, SCCF Natural Resource Policy Director


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 at www.sccf.org under policy, 2011 legislative session, Gov Veto.



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 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.



Redistricting



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 to 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 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.



Major changes at SFWMD



Last week, Governor Rick Scott announced four new governing board appointments just in time for last week’s Governing Board (GB) meeting. The west coast is represented by two members of the board: Joe Collins, current board chair, and new appointee Daniel DeLisi.



Rounding out the board appointments are James “Jim” Moran, Daniel O’Keefe, Timothy Sargent. Current member Glenn Waldman moved from an at-large seat to the seat representing Broward County. See their profiles on our website: www.sccf.org.



Also announced was the appointment of a past GB member, Melissa Meeker as the new Executive Director replacing Carol Wehle, who retired at the end of April.



Bios of new GB members



Dan DeLisi, 37, of Estero, is a self-employed planning and engineering consultant. He is appointed to represent Collier, Lee, Hendry and Charlotte counties for a term beginning May 10, 2011, and ending March 1, 2015.



James Moran, 63, of West Palm Beach, is a self-employed attorney. He is appointed to represent Palm Beach County for a term beginning May 10, 2011, and ending March 1, 2015.



Daniel O’Keefe, 43, of Windermere, is an attorney with Shutts and Bowan LLP. He is appointed to represent Glades, Okeechobee, Highlands, Polk, Orange and Osceola counties for a term beginning May 10, 2011, and ending March 1, 2012.



Timothy Sargent, 41, of West Palm Beach, is the director of tax and operating company chief financial officer for Huizenga Holdings Inc. He is appointed as an at-large member for a term beginning May 10, 2011, and ending March 1, 2014.



Waldman, 51, of Weston, is a self-employed attorney. He is appointed to represent Broward County for a term beginning May 9, 2011, and ending March 1, 2014.



The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

 
 

 

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