2019 Legislative Update

Conservancy of SWFL
May 17 · 4 min read

Thank you to all who actively advocated for our environment by responding to our legislative action alerts.

As you read in our May 7th legislative wrap up, the Conservancy was extremely disappointed in the lack of forward momentum on our two top legislative priorities — a statewide ban on all forms of advanced oil well stimulation and appropriate funding for the land acquisition program Florida Forever. These issues remain our legislative focus at the state level, and we are already strategizing for the 2020 Session, which beings in January.

As with each Session, there are issues we know the legislature intends to take up, those we anticipate will surface in some form or another, and those proposals that seemingly come out of left-field and take everyone by complete surprise. The 2019 Session was no exception. Most concerning to the Conservancy were bills regarding new toll roads through rural areas and detrimental growth management legislation. Bills on these issues passed both chambers and at the time of this article’s writing, are awaiting actions by Governor DeSantis.

SB7068 — New Toll Roads

The Conservancy’s environmental advocacy efforts began in 1964 when a “Road to Nowhere,” was proposed through sensitive wetland habitats critical for our region’s water supply and wildlife. We successfully stopped the road, which would have impacted Southwest Florida’s natural resources for no proven transportation need.

Now, the Conservancy needs your help to stop newly proposed, “Roads to Ruin.” With the passage of SB 7068, the Florida Legislature paved the way for three new toll roads to be built through some of the last remaining natural and rural lands in Florida.

One of the proposed toll roads, the “Southwest-Central Florida Connector,” would extend from Collier County to Polk County and severe Florida panther and black bear habitat. The Legislature plans to fund water and sewer infrastructure along this road, which will inevitably lead to sprawl and an influx of new residents in Southwest Florida. Millions of taxpayer dollars will be invested in planning for these roads, and then billions will be bonded to actually build them. This will leave Florida paying off debt for over a generation, while local infrastructure projects and other important needs go underfunded. The fate of this environmentally detrimental bill remains in the Governor’s hands.

Please see the Florida Conservation Coalition (of which the Conservancy is a member) letter to Governor DeSantis regarding this bill.

Contact Governor DeSantis and ask him to veto SB7068.

Governor Ron DeSantis governorron.desantis@eog.myflorida.com (850) 717–9249

HB7103 — Growth Management

This bill gained momentum — and bad amendments — in the closing days of Session. If signed into law, this bill will (among other things) result in increased liability for citizens and organizations who challenge development projects and lose, by requiring them to pay the winning side’s attorney fees. Compounding the effect of the massive dismantling of state growth management law and oversight during the 2011 Legislative Session, this bill further cripples the ability for citizens and non-profits to enforce and defend local growth plans, natural resources and our quality of life. Again, the fate of this bill remains in the Governor’s hands.

Please see the Florida Conservation Coalition (of which the Conservancy is a member) letter to Governor DeSantis regarding this bill.

Contact Governor DeSantis and ask him to veto HB7103.

Governor Ron DeSantis governorron.desantis@eog.myflorida.com (850) 717–9249

Everglades Restoration Funding

The bright spot for this Session is the record amount of funding for Everglades Restoration projects. The legislature did include approximately $482 million in Everglades funding in the following categories:

  • Everglades Restoration — $285 million
  • Northern Everglades Restoration — $33 million
  • EAA Reservoir — $64 million
  • Herbert Hoover Dike — $50 million
  • Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration — $50 million

Such funding will help to fulfill the state’s commitment to timely restoration projects, and will, we hope, be a catalyst for the federal cost-share funding that is also necessary for these restoration projects.

Conservancy Working on Your Behalf in Tallahassee

As a regional organization working on environmental issues that span local and state boundaries, we maximize our impact through our Tallahassee lobbyist, and through our membership in a number of coalitions, including the Everglades Coalition and the Florida Conservation Coalition. In this way, the Conservancy is able to maximize our impact by prioritizing our work to specific lead issues, such as the fracking ban bills, allowing us to strategically deploy our staff to Tallahassee as necessary to lobby and advocate. Here are some photos of the Conservancy in action in Tallahassee:

Amber Crooks, Environmental Policy Manager, testifies before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee
Jennifer Wilson, Conservancy Tallahassee lobbyist, testifies before the Senate Committee on Agriculture
Marisa Carrozzo, Environmental Policy Manager, (front row, third from the left) participates in the Southwest Florida Alliance of Chambers Tallahassee Day. The group met with a number of legislators and Governor DeSantis (in center of photo)
Marisa Carrozzo, Environmental Policy Specialist (far right), and Kelly Etherton, Environmental Policy Conservation Associate (second from right), met with Senator Stewart (seated) during Everglades Action Day in April, along with John Lai, CEO, Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce and Danielle Ball, Miss South Florida.
Conservancy of SWFL

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Protecting Southwest Florida's unique natural environment and quality of life...now and forever.