Capitol Watch Week 7

Date 03/02/2012

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Capitol Watch – Week 7                       Jay Liles and Preston Robertson

The 2012 Regular Session ends on March 9, 2012. As the House and Senate try to get the state budget finalized and surviving bills passed, here are some issues that still need our attention. 

Budget Conference Committees Take Center Stage

According to House Appropriations Chair Denise Grimsley and Senate Chair JD Alexander, the starting point for negotiations between the two chambers' budget bills is closer than in previous years. They go into the final weeks of regular session needing to reconcile the House's $69.2 billion spending plan with the Senate's $70.8 billion proposal.

Two areas with the biggest differences are transportation and higher education. One bill in the Senate's budget package would redirect hundreds of millions of dollars in vehicle tag and license fees from general revenue to the state's Transportation Trust Fund, resulting in an estimated increase of about $130 million for road-building in the coming fiscal year, and more than $400 million in future years.

Florida Forever and Everglades Funding

Conference Committees are meeting to hash out differences between the House and Senate on a number of issues including essential funding for Florida Forever and Everglades’ restoration.

The Senate has now accepted the House position on the Everglades, agreeing to $30 million in the 2013-14 proposed state budget. This is $10 million short of the Governor's request.

While negotiations continue, Florida Forever has yet to be funded by either the Senate or the House! The Governor recommended $15 million to keep this program alive and we continue to hear that chief budget negotiators are working to see that funding is part of the budget. Thus, your efforts at encouraging the House and Senate members to include funding for both of these important issues is proving to be very helpful and will no doubt be critical to our ultimate success.

Please take a moment to write to the following legislators who sit as conferees on the important budget committee. Ask them to support the Governor’s proposal for funding Florida Forever and Everglades’ restoration.

Email Addresses: , , , ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

** If pasting the email addresses does not work in your email, try separating them by semicolons rather than the commas below. **

Sample Letter –

Re: Support funding to Florida Forever/ Everglades’ Restoration

Dear Florida Senators and Representatives:

Please save Florida Forever by adding $15 million to the budget, as the Governor has proposed.  Florida Forever is vitally important to protect water resources, endangered ecosystems and natural areas and is also used to buffer and thereby protect our military bases. Please also meet the Governor's $40 million request on Everglades’ restoration so that this essential project can continue.



Water Management District Funding and Autonomy at risk

Proposed SB 1986 (formerly SPB 7092) would further diminish regional control of water management and limit the spending authority of our water management districts, noting that the districts were significantly harmed by legislation passed last session. At this point, we are tracking amendatory language which would improve what is, by any measure, a bad bill. The saving grace in this proposed amendment is that it would at least return control of project funding to the governing boards and would retain regional autonomy for the five districts.

Using the same list of House and Senate leaders provided above, please consider contacting  legislators and ask them to allow water management districts to do their job:

Sample Letter -

Dear Members of the Florida Legislature:

As directed by the Legislature in 2011 legislation, the state's five water management districts have streamlined their administrative costs. However, the cuts were so deep that many water resource protection activities are at risk.

Water management districts must be able to protect water supplies and natural systems. This requires science, regulation, and the ability to fund and build water storage and restoration projects and land conservation.

As the Legislature debates SB 1986 and similar measures, we urge you to consider:

·  Water resource budgets need to be adequate and sustainable
·  The water management district spending caps should be repealed.
·  Executive oversight is better than Legislative micromanagement.
·  Science and regulation are critical to protect water resources.

Please lift the water management spending caps and allow the citizen appointed boards of the water management districts to do their job.



Tags: Capitol Watch, 2012 Legislative Session, Florida

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