Emerald Coast ChapterWe are the beach people. The surfers, paddle boarders, kayakers, fishermen, swimmers, beach runners, and walkers. We are activists who want to protect the ocean environment, and our access to it! The ocean and beaches are our playground! More Details
2009 FLORIDA LEGISLATIVE SUMMARY
The 2009 Legislative Session officially ended last Friday! The 2009-10 Budget will be remembered for its slashing to environmental programs. This will be the first year since 1990 that bonds have not been approved for the Preservation 2000 or Florida Forever programs. Also, state land management funds were cut to the bone. $50 million was provided for the Everglades, but that is only a fourth of the funds previously committed for Everglades and Lake Okeechobee programs. The common theme was that environmental rules including protecting our beaches from oil drilling, get in the way of business opportunities. Thank you to those of you who took the time to reach out to your legislators throughout this session.
Session Finale: Good Bills
As many of you know our beach access bill didnt make it out of committee this year. However one bill relating to seagrass and coral reefs did pass: Seagrass and Coral Reef Protections HB 1423 Rep. Baxter Troutman (R- Winter Haven) Not only will this legislation better protect seagrass in aquatic preserves from propeller scarring, it provides penalties for vessel damage to Florida’s coral reefs.
Session Finale: Bad Bills that Passed/Almost Passed
Growth Management SB 360 by Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) This bill was carefully negotiated early in the session, but was corrupted in the last days. Bad amendments made it easier for counties and cities to allow developers to escape review for large developments, and let counties and cities set growth boundaries without thorough review by the Department of Community Affairs. HB 73 Rep. Robert Schenck (R-Spring Hill) This bill shortens the schedule for a decision on environmental permits from 90 days to 45 days. The bill may end up causing permits to be denied as it constrains the usual back-and-forth that helps applicants cure defects in their applications. Reducing Public Comment on Wetlands Permits and Water Management Land Acquisition SB 2080 Sen. JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales) This bill Audubon previously supported was amended in its last days on the floor to delegate permit decisions previously made by the governing boards of water management districts to district executive directors. It additionally limits districts’ bonding authority.
Bills that did NOT PASS: Nearshore Oil Drilling HB 1219 Rep. Charles Van Zant (R-Palatka) Despite a full-court press from the Texas oil lobby, this bill was never taken up in the Senate. Thanks to Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-Palm Beach) for his principled stand on this issue. This issue is coming back next year. Please check out NOTTHEANSWER.ORG to stay up-to-date on this issue.
Limiting Federal Wetlands Review HB 1123 Rep. Trudi Williams (R-Ft. Myers) and SB 2016 Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) Part of an ongoing attempt driven by builders to limit the federal review of small wetlands permits this bill found no love in Senator Constantine’s Environment Committee.
Public Interest End-run on Wetlands HB 1349 Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City) This otherwise innocuous agency “glitch” bill was amended to allow engineering consultants to certify that permit applications submitted on behalf of their clients are in the public interest. Ironically, in Patronis’ own district a development project certified by an engineer spilled massive quantities of mud into otherwise pristine waterways.