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News from Tallahassee for 3/11/14
Now it’s the Democrats talking all night, about climate posted on 3/11/14
WASHINGTON — It’s a lot of hot air about a lot of hot air.
Democrats took to the Senate floor Monday night to talk about global warming and planned not to let up until morning. By midnight, lawmakers had been talking for nearly six hours.
Leading off the dusk-to-dawn talkathon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called climate change “a question of our own survival” and said the United States and other countries have a responsibility to act “before it is too late.”
At least 28 senators were expected to participate. But several Democrats who face tough re-election fights in the fall opted to skip the session. Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska were among them.
Democratic leaders have no plans to bring a climate bill to the Senate floor this year, so the speeches were about little more than theatrics. House Democrats pushed through a bill to limit greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming in 2009, then lost their majority the following election. A climate bill led by then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry collapsed in 2010 without a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Ag bill eliminates Australian pine monitoring program posted on 3/7/14
by Christine Stapleton | Palm Beach Post
A sweeping agriculture bill (HB 7091) filed on Tuesday would eliminate a pilot program that monitors problems caused by highly invasive Australian pine trees that are used as windbreaks in citrus groves.
Lawmakers created the 5-year pilot permitting program in 2008, which allowed commercial citrus growers in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties to obtain permits to plant Australian pines as windbreaks in their groves.
Australian pine trees are classified as Category 1 invasive exotic species – considered the most problematic by the Florida Pest Plant Council. According to the Council’s 2013 Management Plan, the tree “produces copious amounts of wind and water dispersed seeds and is able to colonize a wide variety of habitats.” Australian pines are also the source of allergy problems in the spring and early summer.
Florida joins Deepwater Horizon oil-spill suit posted on 3/6/14
by Susan Jacobson | Orlando Sentinel
Florida on Wednesday joined a federal lawsuit against BP and others involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Gov. Rick Scott announced.
The state wants BP and other companies involved in the spill held liable for damages to Florida's environment and natural resources.
"Joining the lawsuit will ensure these resources and the interests of people who depend on them are fully considered and fairly compensated," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Nick Wiley said in a statement.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection filed suit in the Eastern District of Louisiana because a settlement with the companies could not be reached, Scott said.
by Bruce Ritchie | Florida Current
An outspoken critic of a Florida Department of Environmental Protection review of conservation land for possible sale says the review process helped shift the debate on state land ownership.
DEP announced Friday night that it was ending its comprehensive review of 3 million acres of state owned land for possible sale. Language in the 2013-14 state budget requested by DEP provided for the sale of up to $50 million to go towards new land purchases.
But the process of identifying land for possible sale touched off criticism from environmental groups, counties and people living near what they thought was protected state land. An initial list of 5,330 acres issued in August was trimmed 3,405 acres when the last list was issued in October.
Audubon Florida's Charles Lee, who criticized the review throughout the process, says the exercise has quieted the rhetoric of legislators who have argued for years that the state owned land that it didn't need for conservation.
"I think probably the whole idea of a surplus of conservation lands that might raise $50 million was based on legend rather than fact," Lee said. He is Audubon Florida's director of advocacy.
Ten Issues to Watch During the 2014 Session posted on 3/3/14
by staff | news service of florida
Florida lawmakers will start the 2014 session Tuesday with a budget surplus and an eye on the November elections. But they still will have to address some tough questions before the session ends May 2. Among the questions: How can Florida better protect vulnerable children? Is it time to overhaul the state pension system? And should the state allow resort casinos to set up shop? Here are 10 issues to watch during the next two months:
BRIGHTER BUDGET: Tallahassee is always a happier place when the state has a budget surplus. And lawmakers will go into the session with a roughly $1 billion cushion. Gov. Rick Scott proposed a $74.2 billion budget plan that includes tax cuts and increased spending on education and child welfare. Lawmakers don’t have to follow Scott's recommendations, but cutting taxes and spending money on kids could be popular ideas in an election year....
HEALTH CARE FIGHTS: The 2013 legislative session was filled with debate about whether Florida should expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. While Democrats will try to resurrect the issue this year, a Medicaid expansion is all but dead. But the health-care world could see a couple of major lobbying fights, including a hospital-industry battle about state approvals of new trauma centers. Also, a debate has been raging about a House proposal to allow nurse practitioners to provide care without the supervision of physicians.
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