Legislative Look-Back and Look-Ahead

Fall legislative committees are in full swing in the run up to the January 2020 Session.

Some of the issues discussed in Fall committees include:

New Proposed Toll Roads
Legislation championed by Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) last session paved the way for the development of Multi-Use Corridors of Regional E Economic Significance (M-CORES). Its goal is to build three new toll roads in the next 10 years — extending the Suncoast Parkway to Jefferson County;  connecting the turnpike to the parkway; and building another toll road connecting Polk and Collier counties. 

Task forces assigned to each potential corridor have met at least twice and are tasked with evaluating the feasibility and routes of these impactful proposals. Audubon staff is represented on all three task forces by Charles Lee (Suncoast and Turnpike) and Dr. Paul Gray (Polk to Collier). At the latest of these meetings, both elevated concerns that the need and financial viability for these roads have not yet been demonstrated. They are also vocal advocates for mandatory protection elements for wildlife and conservation and agricultural lands in the planning process.

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Governor’s 2020 Budget
Governor DeSantis released details of his Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget on November 18, 2019, keeping his promise to request $2.5 billion for the environment and water resources over four years. The Governor’s proposed budget includes significant recommendations for programs that address both water quality and quantity challenges across the state, including the state’s premier land-buying program, Florida Forever. Strategic land acquisitions complement the critical water quality restoration programs that will help keep our state free from future algal blooms and water shortages.  T

The Governor has exhibited great leadership on the Everglades and now the work begins to enlist the Legislature in adopting these funding recommendations.

Governor’s proposed budget calls on the Legislature to make the following appropriations in 2020:

  • $322 million for Everglades restoration projects
  • $150 million for water quality improvements
  • $50 million for the Total Maximum Daily Load
  • Program to meet water quality restoration goals
  • $50 million for springs restoration
  • $22 million to combat the harmful effects of algal
  • blooms and red tide
  • $50 million in beach nourishment
  • $8.9 million in coral reef protection funding
  • $6 million for the Resilient Coastlines Program
  • $100 million for the Florida Forever Program
  • $54 million for state parks

Water Legislation
Water remains an important topic in the Legislature this year as we continue to see red tide blooms off the Gulf Coast, reminding us that strong regulatory programs are necessary to set the stage for managing our precious resources to prevent problems before they start. We’ve seen three water bills filed so far; Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) and Representative Margaret Good (D-Sarasota) filed SB 686 and HB 405 that will bring much-needed reform to urban stormwater permitting and design. Senator Mayfield (R-Vero Beach) filed SB 712, the “Clean Waterways Act,” a comprehensive water quality bill that address nutrient pollution from wastewater, septic tanks, agriculture, and stormwater.

While official fireworks displays are an integral part of key holidays, personal fireworks used in inappropriate locations can prove deadly to birds and their colonies. SB 410 by Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Jacksonville) and HB 65 by Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) would allow the use of explosive fireworks on designated holidays such as July 4, Memorial Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. The use of explosive personal fireworks can also have damaging effects on special needs populations, veterans, private property owners, and domestic pets.

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