Capitol Watch Final - 2016

Date 03/17/2016

Capitol Watch 2016


2016 Legislative Session, Final
By Preston Robertson and Jay Liles

The Session ended on March 11, 2016.  Here is where we stand.   

The Budget
As the only bill that has to be passed every Session, the budget bill was passed by both houses and is now on the Governor’s desk. The Governor may veto any of the individual items in the budget, but there is likely enough support in the House and Senate to override a veto next legislative Session. The 2016-2017 budget bill is HB 5001, General Appropriations Act. The budget once again drastically short-changes the Florida Forever program, which was to be fully funded from revenue stemming from the passage of Amendment 1 by the voters in 2014. This is the breakdown as to pertinent budget line items, noting funding available for Amendment 1 was $902 million. 

  • Florida Forever program: $15 million for approved conservation land projects, although this money may also be used by the Water Management Districts for “water resource development projects.”
  • Rural and Family Lands: $35 million to purchase conservation easements on agricultural lands
  • Water farming on private lands: $5 million
  • Everglades: $32 million for restoration strategies; $100 million for implementing the Comprehensive Environmental Restoration Plan (CERP)
  • Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program: $56 million (to aid in the ongoing polluted water disaster in South Florida/Lake Okeechobee) 
  • C-51 Reservoir: $2 million
  • Lake Okeechobee Agricultural projects: $15 million
  • Florida Communities Trust: $10 million for parks
  • Springs: $50 million for springs (land acquisition and capital projects)
Florida Forever was historically funded at $300 million per year under both Republican and Democratic administrations. A whopping 75% of voters supported Amendment 1 at the polls in November 2014 to dedicate, for twenty years, a funding stream to fully fund this program. As in the 2015 Legislative Session, this did not happen in the Session that has just ended. Both chambers again propose to spend millions of Amendment 1 funds on what used to be paid for by General Revenue (e.g., existing agency operating expenses). This is not what the voters intended, and that is why we are in a lawsuit against the Legislature.  

If you wish to help DEFEND AMENDMENT 1, your vote, and aid our lawsuit, PLEASE JOIN THE FEDERATION OR DONATE to FWF. Thanks!

Please go to www.fwfonline.org for more information.  


Fracking
Earlier this Session, the Florida House passed a bill which purported to “regulate” the petroleum extraction practice known as “fracking” in Florida. The Senate version of this legislation, SB 318, failed in a tight vote. Therefore, no fracking bill passed this Session, though it will likely be back next year. Many municipalities and counties passed resolutions opposing this practice. What we really need is a ban on fracking statewide.


State Lands
CS/CS/CS HB 1075 passed both chambers and was sent to the Governor. This massive bill is the result of several years of concerns expressed by some legislators about how the people’s lands are managed and if that management could be improved. Conservation advocates were able to get changes to the bill that will hopefully benefit habitats and wildlife. The passed bill contains language that would allow landowners contiguous to state owned lands to acquire title to state lands in exchange for placing a permanent conservation easement on their own lands. This mechanism could enlarge the footprint of protected property, but each such transaction must be carefully vetted. 

...

One last thought about this past session. There has been a very disturbing trend among some Senators and Representatives as to their lack of willingness to hear from the public, in other words you, their constituents. We have even been told if we keep having citizens call or email on an issue, they will take the other side. This is not a good sign for a democracy, especially with the many critical issues facing our state.  





Tags: Capital Watch,



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