News from Tallahassee for 4/18/14

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Bill allowing ban on stores using plastic bags is dead - for now posted on 4/11/14

by Gainesville Sun

TALLAHASSEE — Paper or plastic? That choice will remain available and free for Florida shoppers, at least this year.

State legislators decided Thursday not to proceed with a bill that would have allowed local governments to prohibit stores from using plastic bags and allow stores to charge shoppers 10 cents for paper bags, in an attempt to protect the environment.

While the perennial idea is not going anywhere this legislative session, lawmakers urged bill sponsor Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, to return with a new version next year. Their primary concern was the paper bag charge.

“I cannot vote for a tax on all our shoppers, if these local governments put this into ordinance,” Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, said.

A carrot approach of tax credits for stores that are aggressive in eliminating plastic bags, rather than the stick of forcing shoppers to pay, might make more headway in the Legislature, Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, said. He co-sponsored the bill and contended that environmental protections are necessary and that they boost tourism.

“It would pain me to see a dolphin or a sea turtle or any other of the valuable sea creatures we have around here die in a plastic bag because we didn't take responsibility,” Soto said.

Bullard said he will talk with environmentalists and retailers about next year's version.

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Senate version of anti-environmental regulation bill declared dead by Senate sponsor posted on 4/9/14

by Bruce Ritchie | Florida Current

The Senate companion of the controversial environmental regulation bill wasn't heard in the final meeting of a committee, prompting the bill sponsor to declare the measure dead for the 2014 legislative session.

SB 1464 would provide 30-year water use permits for developments of regional impact and require that a master plan development order be included in regional water supply plans.

The bill was the companion of HB 703 by Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City. But several measures opposed by environmentalists, cities and counties had been taken out of the Senate bill and more were likely to be removed.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, the bill sponsor and chairman of the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, said the committee won't be meeting again before the end of the legislative session on May 2. He said he temporarily postponed his SB 1464 because there wasn't time to hear it.

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Bills delaying ban on spreading septic waste are moving with environmental support posted on 4/8/14

by Bruce Ritchie | Florida Current

A pair of bills that would delay a ban on spreading septic tank waste on land as required in 2010 springs legislation are moving through the House and Senate with environmental opposition having been dropped.

SB 550 in 2010, a springs protection bill, banned the land application effective on Jan. 1, 2016. About 100 million gallons of waste is pumped out of Florida's 2.5 million septic tanks each year and some is spread at 92 regulated sites, according to the Florida Department of Health.

This year, HB 1113 and SB 1160 would have delayed the ban by four years while a study of waste disposal options was conducted. But environmentalists opposed the delay and said there was time to study the options and have the Legislature take action next year.

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As lawmakers pass session’s halfway point, here’s where big issues stand posted on 4/7/14

by News Service of Florida

FL Capitol BldgTHE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE -- Florida lawmakers have crossed the mid-point in their 60-day march to craft new laws, amend existing ones and agree on a roughly $75 billion budget for the next fiscal year.

And they've done so mostly without controversy.

A day at the Capitol was blown out to honor the Florida State University football team for winning the national championship, and another day was seemingly devoted to lawmakers taking "selfies" with retired British soccer star David Beckham, who wants to build a soccer stadium in Miami.

With the two chambers working in tandem on most issues, Gov. Rick Scott was able to sign a series of bills into law this week. They included a bill, dubbed the "Florida GI Bill," aimed at making the state more military friendly; a package of bills aimed at keeping sexually violent predators locked up; and a bill that will roll back motor-vehicle registration fees.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of the 1,826 bills, resolutions and memorials filed by members and committees as of Friday morning had already died with barely a murmur.

Here's a look at where a dozen major issues stand as lawmakers head toward the homestretch of the 2014 session:

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Small but promising step in restoring Everglades posted on 4/7/14

by JENNY STALETOVICH | Miami Herald

Much of the massive plan to restore the Everglades exists in theory, a vast and complicated circuit of interconnected canals, culverts, gates and reservoirs, mostly located far inland and far from people. Few sections have been built. Far more exist only in computer models.

But in the last two years, engineers have been fine-tuning a small but uniquely accessible project: an urban wetland sandwiched between tennis courts and walled McMansions near Palmetto Bay.

Located on the Deering Estate and an adjacent old mango farm, and part of the much bigger Biscayne Bay wetland restoration, the mini project represents the science behind the grand but stalled Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Known as CERP, the far-reaching plan is intended to cure the ailing ecosystem by restoring the flow and breadth of the River of Grass.

By comparison, this project by the South Florida Water Management District is tiny — just over 30 acres with a pump house sheathed in coral rock to mimic the nearby estate — and relatively inexpensive, at $4.2 million. The price tag for CERP, passed by Congress in 2000, is $10.5 billion.

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