Despite recent gains in general revenue taxes coming into the state over the last three months, the coronavirus pandemic leaves a major dent in the state budget ($3 billion less than what was expected before the coronavirus first began) creating a lot of uncertainty in funding for important conservation and water projects and programs.
On a positive note, both Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), and House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Tarpon Springs), have clearly stated the need to develop a statewide strategic plan for sea level rise, hurricanes, and flooding. With rising seas and increasing intensity of storms across the state, we are glad to see state leadership on this issue. The Senate and House leads are also on the same page when prioritizing a five-year planning horizon for environmental projects, similar to measures already in place for state transportation planning.
Other items to note include:
- The creation of the Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee by the House and Senate to address COVID-19 and to plan for future emergencies.
- Access to the Capitol is severely limited due to COVID-19, casting a shadow on session and bringing a new set of challenges for attending committee meetings, providing testimony, and more.
- This is the year for redistricting, the process by which new congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn. District lines are redrawn every ten years following completion of the United States census. The federal government stipulates that districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate based on race or ethnicity. How those maps are drawn can drastically change the future of state politics.
The Audubon policy team is ready to pound the pavement to ensure environmental protections are strengthened and conservation programs, including the Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands programs, remain fully funded.
Five weeks of pre-session committee hearings begin Jan. 11. The 2021 legislative session starts March 2.
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