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News from Tallahassee for 3/30/15
Email blitz fights cuts to state land-buying funds posted on 3/30/15
by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post
TALLAHASSEE — After leading a ballot measure last fall directing millions of state dollars toward environmental efforts, conservation groups now find themselves waging a new campaign to convince lawmakers how to spend the money.
Lawmakers’ email in-boxes are being flooded with fresh, late-hour pleas from activists who led Florida’s Amendment 1, dubbed the Water and Land Legacy measure.
An overwhelming 75 percent of voters supported Amendment 1 – with a state-leading 85 percent backing it in Palm Beach County.
The ballot proposal grew out of years of frustration among environmentalists over Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature’s reducing funding for Florida Forever, the state’s key conservation land-buying program.
So environmentalists were stunned by what they saw as bitter irony when separate budget blueprints emerging in the House and Senate last week again shortchanged Florida Forever.
Activists are firing back with a barrage of emails.
“These proposals have a long way to go before they satisfy the intent of Florida voters,” said an email last week from 1000 Friends of Florida, among several conservation groups urging supporters to contact lawmakers.
The Senate is recommending $2 million as the pot of money Florida Forever could use to buy new land and preserve it from development. The House has set $10 million aside.
Both amounts are far less than the $67.5 million currently budgeted for land-buying and the $100 million recommended for the coming year by Scott. Environmentalists have said $170 million should go toward Florida Forever.
Another strange irony as the legislative session nears this week’s midpoint is that the Republican governor has suddenly turned into an awkward ally, despite drawing historically poor reviews from environmentalists.
by miami herald
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, got some national TV airtime last night — but maybe not for what he’d like.
In a Daily Show segment on Gov. Rick Scott’s alleged ban on the phrase “climate change,” Jon Stewart showed last week’s Senate committee meeting, chaired by Latvala, when lawmakers gave Bryan Koon, chief of emergency management, a ribbing for refusing to say...those words.
Said, Stewart, focusing in on Latvala, who almost fell out of his chair from laughter: “I think that one guy needs the Heimlich!”
But don’t worry, Gov. Scott, Stewart has some suggested phrases to replace “sea level rise” in the Florida vernacular: Let’s try “moisture inconvenience,” “statewide jacuzzi-fication” or maybe get ready for a “surprise pool party.”
Florida Senate adopts parts of House water policy posted on 3/25/15
by JIM Turner | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House’s business-friendly approach to protecting Lake Okeechobee has been added to the Senate’s plan for new water policies for the state.
The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved changes to its version of the water policy bill (SB 918), which is deemed stronger by environmentalists for the state’s natural springs.
The Senate proposal, which also seeks to develop a statewide trail system and increase public access to conservation lands for recreation, is more project-focused than the House plan, which was approved in a 106-9 vote on the third day of the legislative session.
The water-policy proposals, while backed by many legislators, are considered separate from a voter-approved requirement to increase spending on water and land projects in the Senate and House budgets.
Committee Chairman Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican who is sponsoring the water-policy bill, said his proposal is still a work in progress.
“There is no perfection in this bill or anybody else’s bill,” Dean said. “We will consider anything that is doable and desirable and manageable and is open and transparent.”
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, issued a release Tuesday saying the amended bill reflects the “commitment that the House and Senate would work together to develop a statewide water and natural resources policy for Florida.”
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, has said if the House and Senate can’t find common ground on water policy this year, they’ll try again in 2016.
Florida solar petition reaches key milestone posted on 3/25/15
by Ivan Penn | Tampa Bay Times
A solar petition reached a key milestone Tuesday, with state elections officials certifying enough signatures for the initiative to receive Supreme Court review for the 2016 ballot.
The state Board of Elections reported that the petition, which would allow those in Florida who generate electricity from the sun to sell that power directly to others, topped 72,000 signatures.
Floridians for Solar Choice, the sponsor of the initiative, needed 68,314 signatures for the petition drive for the state Supreme Court to determine whether the initiative's language meets legal requirements to appear on the 2016 ballot.
Mark Ard, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said now that the petition has reached the required number of signatures, letters acknowledging the initiative's status will be sent to the sponsor, the committee that reviews fiscal impact and the attorney general, who will present it to the court.
Backers of the petition had voiced frustration over perceived delays in the state's acknowledgment that they had crossed the necessary threshold for the court's review. Typically, the state had updated its website with signature totals daily, but there had been no updates since the middle of last week.
The state elections board updated its website late Tuesday with the new totals, after inquiries from the Tampa Bay Times about why validated signatures from Pinellas County had not been added.
Tory Perfetti, director of Floridians for Solar Choice and Florida Conservatives for Energy Freedom, said the fact that the group reached the 68,314 signatures needed for Supreme Court review shows the interest in the proposal.
Climate change? Not in Gov. Rick Scott's administration — still posted on 3/20/15
by Steve Bousquet | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's chief of emergency management testified Thursday before the Legislature and had a half dozen chances to use the term "climate change."
But Bryan Koon would not say the C words.
Scott has denied news reports that Department of Environmental Protection employees were barred from using the terms "climate change," "global warming" and "sustainability," but he has declined to discuss the subject in detail.
In a televised hearing before a Senate budget subcommittee, Koon was talking about his agency's request for federal funds to improve emergency life safety notifications for residents and visitors in advance of floods, tornadoes and hurricanes in Florida. Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, asked Koon if it's true that states need to have "climate change plans" to qualify for that federal money.
Yes, Koon replied, referring to "language to that effect."
"I used 'climate change,' " Clemens said, "but I'm suggesting that maybe as a state we use the term 'atmospheric re-employment.' That might be something that the governor could get behind."
Senators roared with laughter, and the chairman, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, almost literally fell out of his chair.
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