News from Tallahassee for 3/5/15

Florida Springs Under Repair posted on 3/5/15

by jim ash | WFSU

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government got an update Wednesday on the health, or lack thereof, of Florida’s iconic springs. Lawmakers want to know the problems as they overhaul state regulations.

Florida has more than 1,000 named springs and not all of them are doing well.

Some 400 are listed as impaired, says Florida Department of Environmental Protection division chief Tom Frick.

In most cases, that means they exceed the .035 milliliters per liter threshold for nitrogen, a chief pollution culprit.

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Legislature set to go; focus on tax cuts, school tests, environment posted on 3/3/15

by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post

FL Capitol RotundaTALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott will open the 2015 Legislature Tuesday with his annual State of the State address, setting in motion a two-month session expected to focus heavily on the environment, school testing and tax cuts.

Lawmakers get to work with a $1 billion budget surplus reflecting Florida’s economic bounce back. It’s a point the newly re-elected Scott is certain to embrace as a sign his leadership has paid off.

“What a difference,” Scott said last week, reflecting on his first State of the State speech in 2011, when he faced a deep budget shortfall and double-digit unemployment.

The first-time officeholder was then a tea party favorite, and he quickly set himself at odds with the Legislature by demanding huge spending cuts, state worker layoffs and big tax cuts – approaches all scaled-back by fellow Republicans leading the Legislature.

Scott last fall joined former Gov. Jeb Bush as the only Florida Republicans to win re-election to the governor’s office. Once an outsider, Scott now is in his fifth year leading the state and has a long resume both to take credit for – and attempt to defend.

He’s developed a few more allies in the Legislature. But polls still cast Scott as a polarizing figure – with roughly the same number of Floridians saying he’s done a good job as those who give him bad marks.

The session’s opening day will reflect this ambivalence.

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Crisafulli to push for water and pension reform, $500 million in tax cuts posted on 3/3/15

by michael van sickler | times/herald tallahassee bureau

Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli stressed an overhaul of the state’s water policy, $500 million in tax cuts, and a revamp of the state’s student testing in his opening remarks to lawmakers on the 1st day of legislative session on Tuesday.

A soft-spoken 43-year-old Merritt Island Republican, Crisafulli oversees a House chamber with a commanding 81-39 GOP advantage over Democrats. But his manner is modest, and has been viewed by some as more accommodating than his predecessors.

“I’m not the Speaker of just the Republicans, I am the Speaker of the House,” Crisafulli said early in his remarks. “Every Member in this chamber has an important role to play in our work.

(Minoary Leader Rep. Mark) Pafford, I look forward to working with you, and I believe we can have a successful session.”

But make no mistake. Crisafulli’s agenda is a conservative one that is strikingly similar to prior years.

His main priority this session is passage of legislation that would overhaul the state’s water policy, which would include the removal of punitive measures on agribusinesses in exchange for enticements.

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A look at the 5 biggest issues for the Florida Legislature posted on 3/3/15

by GARY FINEOUT | AP

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's GOP-controlled Legislature kicks off its annual session Tuesday, one that could be consumed by plenty of high-profile issues - but lacking the intensity that comes during an election year session.

Both House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner have their own agendas. But it appears the focus over the next 60 days may be more about how Gov. Rick Scott and various special interest groups fare during the weeks to come.

Here then are the five biggest questions of the 2015 session:

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To Curb Bear Population, Florida Reinstates Hunting Season posted on 3/2/15

by regan mccarthy | wfsu

For the first time in two decades, Florida officials have scheduled a bear hunting season. It's a response to a rise in bear attacks — but it has some environmentalists upset.

Experts say there's plenty of room for humans and black bears to co-exist, but the smell of food is pulling the animals out of the woods and into neighborhoods.

If you want to understand the situation, take a trip to Franklin County, in the pandhandle. A few months ago, a bear attacked a teenager there while she walked her dog near a convenience store.

Kaitlin Goode, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, explains that garbage — strewn through the woods and across the road at a recycling center for appliances — is part of the problem. She says bears can't help but drag tasty things back into the woods.

"These communities are backed right up to the forest, and it's just a bear pump," Goode says. The bears are flourishing in the woods, she says, "and they smell this. They might be in the middle of the woods, but they can smell this."

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