Legislative Session Update-Week 3
: This past week Senate President Galvano’s priority transportation bill,
by Sen. Lee was heard in it’s next to last committee. This bill proposes three toll roads in the heart of the state to address traffic congestion, promote economic development for rural towns and assist with hurricane evacuation. This multi-billion dollar, multi-year, bonded toll facility project would “redirect” $135 million from the general fund over three years before construction begins in 2022. This bill would result in increased development in our rural lands and wildlife corridors; the very definition of sprawl. SCCF is concerned about the need for and expense of the project and the threat it poses to mid-state conservation lands and wildlife corridors. There are much more effective ways to deal with the problems this bill aims to solve including: 1) investing millions in rural economic development by building on their existing strengths, 2) spending much needed funds to build hurricane shelters and 3) investing in practical transportation solutions to address the truly congested areas of the state. The next stop for this bill will be the full Senate Appropriations Committee. SCCF opposes this bill, watch for an Action Alert next week.
The House and Senate Natural Resource Appropriations Subcommittees released their proposed budgets this week. On Tuesday the House committee passed a proposed budget that mirrored the Governor’s $625 million request. In addition to the funding for state environmental agencies such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection, the House proposal includes $327.4 million for Everglades restoration and funding to combat red tide and toxic algae. The Senate President expressed some hesitation about fully funding the Governor’s environmental budget requests due to the costs of addressing Hurricane Michael, yet the Senate’s Natural Resource Appropriations Subcommittee recommended $656 million for water quality and $27.4 million for the Blue Green Algae Task Force and Red Tide research. These proposals are encouraging but both budgets fall short in funding the Florida Forever program. The Senate proposes $45 million for Florida Forever and the House, a meager $20 million. SCCF supports Sen. Mayfield’s
and Rep. Ausley’s
that propose $100 million per year for Florida Forever. There is still a lot of budget negotiating to do before the joint spending plan is approved but it is encouraging to see these environmental spending proposals receive bi-partisan support. Links to the detailed budget proposals can be found on SCCFs Legislative Tracker, linked below.
Wednesday a good water quality bill,
by Mayfield went bad. This bill which proposes to increase water quality project spending, transfer the on-site sewer program from the Department of Health to the Dept. of Environmental Protection and impose fines and penalties to waste water treatment plants that do not meet self-imposed standards, was amended by the bill sponsor, Mayfield, to weaken some of those gains. The change was prompted by home builders and municipalities citing the extraordinary costs to meet these standards. Although the amendment was approved by the committee, Sen. Mayfield gave a passionate speech to address these water quality issues now because the problem is not going to get better without septic and sewer improvements. The bill will see additional amendments added as discussed during the meeting and we will be prepared to send Action Alerts with our support to strengthen this bill to include the protections necessary to improve water quality.
More water quality bills to be heard next week along with the Senate partial fracking ban so please utilize our Action Alerts next week to let your legislators know how important these issues are to you. Thank you for engaging and taking action.