The first week of Florida’s annual 60-day legislative session got off to a busy start with both the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate wasting no time. Both chambers took floor action by day three—an extraordinary accomplishment.
At the same time, bills continued their transit through assigned committees with some great results. Each week, we’ll detail what's happening in Tallahassee through this update called the Audubon Advocate. We also post an update on conservation funding and our full list of priorities at the bottom of every edition.
Audubon Florida’s legislative agenda is focused on securing funding for conservation. We'll advocate at the Capitol and enlist the support of our network to communicate with legislators. Audubon will also work with other organizations and associations, including local governments, to achieve our policy goals.
Audubon depends on people like you to help make Audubon the most effective conservation organization each legislative session. I hope we can count on you to stay engaged as we lobby for good conservation policy and funding.
Read on in this edition for details of how bills we are following closely fared in week one, and stay tuned for weekly updates while policymakers are in Tallahassee.
Interim Executive Director
It's Working: As Audubon Campaign Ramps Up, Conservation Spending Passes Another Hurdle
This week's biggest news was the great success many of you made possible. Sen. Rob Bradley brought his Senate Bill 370 (SB 370) to the Senate Appropriations Committee. It provides a much needed $100 million to Florida Forever, our state’s signature land conservation program. In addition to bringing this important proposal forward, he also offered an amendment we called Parks, not Paper Clips to ensure conservation dollars are used for conservation purposes, not agency administrative costs. Many of you in the districts of committee members reached out to them urging your support of this amendment, and they heard you!
SB 370 now heads to the Senate floor for a vote by the entire Florida Senate. On the House side, Representative Beshears introduced the same bill this week.
We still need your help: In recent years, Land and Water Legacy Amendment (Amendment 1) funds have been used to cover agency operations, leaving less for essential land conservation programs. To ensure conservation dollars are used for conservation purposes, Audubon launched our Parks, not Paper Clips campaign this week. We’ve seen promising results with the important amendment being adopted in the Senate and 3,000 signatures on our petition. Click here to add your name and share with your friends and family.
Audubon Watching Water Policy Closely in Florida Senate
Sen. Simmons introduced Senate Bill 1402, paving the way for the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) to receive delegation of the federal EPA's Clean Water Act 404 dredge and fill permitting program. This move would delegate certain permitting authority to DEP for dredge and fill activities previously permitted by the federal government.
Changes to environmental permitting may impact wetlands and other important bird habitats. Audubon is monitoring this legislation closely and asking hard questions about how this work can be added to DEP's responsibilities without increased permitting and enforcement staff.
Florida Removed from Offshore Drilling Consideration
When the federal government announced it would consider Florida for offshore oil and gas drilling last week, Audubon Florida quickly slammed the move and announced our firm opposition. A lot has happened since the federal government’s initial announcement.
Earlier this week, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that he removed Florida from consideration after meeting with Gov. Rick Scott. And federal and state lawmakers are taking action to propose more permanent protections against drilling.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson filed legislation on Wednesday to permanently ban drilling off of Florida’s Atlantic Coast and in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. This would make permanent the moratorium on drilling currently in place for the Eastern Gulf. Representative Kathy Castor also has companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and Reps. Francis Rooney, Charlie Crist, Alcee Hastings, Stephanie Murphy, and Darren Soto have all signed on as co-sponsors.
At the state level, House Resolution 319 (HR 319) by Representative Ponder and Senate Resolution 550 (SR 550) by Senator Broxson support an extension of the current moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico east of the Military Mission Line. Audubon supports these good resolutions. The House Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee passed HR 319 this week. Next week, the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee will take up SR 550 by Senator Broxson.
Audubon Continues Monitoring Legislation Impacting Local Tree Ordinances
Local tree protections do not just preserve the aesthetic character of our communities. They also provide protection for our urban forests, which provide essential habitat for migrant and resident birds, protect urban air quality, and reduce the “heat island” effect of paved urban areas. Audubon remains opposed to these bills in their current form.
*The Governor’s budget recommendations also included $50 million for State Parks, which includes ongoing management expenses.
Audubon Florida's Legislative Priorities
Land Conservation Funding
Audubon supports agency budget requests for Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program that recommend strong funding for land acquisition and conservation easements. Audubon is seeking $150 million for land conservation.
With the successful passage of the Legacy Florida Act in 2016 and Senate Bill 10 in 2017, we must continue to follow through on commitments to restoring America’s Everglades. Audubon supports the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Legislative Budget Request that seeks $305.8 million in Everglades funding- the largest single request ever by the agency.
Funds appropriated by the Florida Legislature can be leveraged with other funding sources to advance springs projects and programs to improve water quality and increase freshwater flows. Audubon is seeking $50 million for Florida’s springs.
Audubon is seeking $5 million for Lake Apopka Restoration.