Legislative Wrap-Up 2018: Success, Progress & Surprise

After a whirlwind eight weeks, the Florida Legislative Session has ended. From an environmental perspective, Session was a mixed-bag of success, progress and surprise.

Success

One of the Conservancy’s main legislative priorities continues to be advocating for legislation that annually dedicates funds for conservation land acquisition, at the full amount anticipated through the 2014 Water and Land Conservation Amendment. This includes funding of the Florida Forever state land acquisition program. Florida Forever is a crucial avenue to provide landowners choices and opportunities for conserving their environmentally sensitive lands and to provide an alternative to development or other types of land use intensification.

While no legislation passed this Session to secure a continual dedicated funding source, $100 million was included in the budget for conservation land acquisition. Although it was less than what the Conservancy and our partners had requested from the Legislature, this funding will be enormously beneficial for furthering land conservation projects. We thank the House and Senate for this funding, and in particular, Senator Rob Bradley, who spearheaded legislation for an annual allocation and also chaired the Senate’s Appropriations Committee where he helped make Florida Forever funding a priority in the state’s budget. The Conservancy will be back next year to advocate for dedicated funding established through legislation.

Progress

For the second year in a row, Senator Dana Young (R-Tampa) introduced legislation that would ban fracking and other well stimulation treatments in the state of Florida. Both SB462, and its companion HB237 –introduced by Representative Kathleen Peters (R-Treasure Island)- received a large number of co-sponsors and co-introducers from both Republicans and Democrats. These protective bills (which capture all forms of risky fracking and fracking-like activities, not just hydraulic fracturing) are needed to protect our most important natural resource: our waters.

We thank Senator Bradley and Senator Book for scheduling the bill to be heard in two of its Senate committees. These committees unanimously supported the fracking ban. We also thank Senator Farmer for proposing a last minute amendment to try and advance a fracking ban.

Unfortunately, no ban was passed in the 2018 Legislative Session. The major hurdle has been leadership in the House of Representatives. Like last year, Speaker Richard Corcoran and Majority Leader Representative Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) have prevented HB237 from receiving a fair hearing, as the bill was not scheduled in any of its committees.

The ban bill moved farther on the Senate side than ever before, which signals continuing momentum for a statewide ban. Such legislation will again be the Conservancy’s top priority next Session.

Surprise

Each Session, bad bills pop up seemingly out of the blue. SB1402 and its companion HB7043, pave the way for the state of Florida to take on the federal Clean Water Act authority of issuing 404 “dredge and fill” permits (the authorizations needed to destroy wetlands for development). This is being proposed in the name of streamlining and efficiency, but would result in reduced environmental review and protections, and would fast-track development at a time when Florida needs all of its remaining wetlands to maintain our sensitive environment and quality of life.

The Conservancy has been an outspoken opponent of these bad wetland bills. Unfortunately, these bills have passed both chambers and are awaiting action by Governor Rick Scott.

However, you have one more chance to KILL THE BILL! Please contact Governor Scott and tell him to veto this bill!

Take Action Now! http://www.capwiz.com/conservancy/issues/alert/?alertid=79875626&type=SW&external_id=10176.0

Find out more about this issue on our webpage:

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