If you ever wondered whether your voice was heard in Tallahassee, look no further than SB2508. Initially submitted as a budget conforming bill only days before its one stop at the Senate Appropriations Committee, the outpouring of concern by tens of thousands of Floridians was heard by our State Senators. Your emails, phone calls and petitions made a difference!
The night before this bill was to be heard on the Senate Floor, the bill sponsor, Senator Albritton, proposed a series of amendments. These amendments resulted in substituted bill language that lessened negative impacts to the Everglades. However, these improvements cannot negate the fact that this superfluous bill does nothing to positively improve funding for the EAA Reservoir or further the efforts to ensure a balanced implementation of the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). Rather, the bill, even as amended, adds in new and problematic policies under the false pretense being simply a conforming bill.
BREAKING IT DOWN
One of the reasons the Conservancy opposed this bill was that it clearly set policy, and it was, even after the last-minute amendment, completely inappropriate as a conforming bill. Conforming bills are intended to align policy necessary for specific appropriations. This bill went beyond that by setting new policy, and nothing in the last-minute amendment fixed this concerning issue. Conforming bills are intended to be very narrow in scope, which is why they are allowed to move forward with only one hearing where the public can comment. For this reason, the Conservancy maintains our opposition to this bill.
Secondly, the implications of the amendment’s codification of date-certain administrative water rules into statute is unclear. The Conservancy remains very concerned that this language will have detrimental effects similar to the previous bill language requiring the South Florida Water Management District to prioritize water supply over the water needed for natural systems. Such prioritization inappropriately ties the hands of the District and circumvents the years of collaborative stakeholder input that resulted in a balanced LOSOM process and plan. Third, the bill still inappropriately allows public entities, like utilities, to pay for Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) staff to expedite the review of their permit applications. Allowing applicants to pay for expedited permit processing is extremely concerning.
The Conservancy remains opposed to this bill and we encourage both the House and Senate to find ways to fix these issues when the budget goes into conference.
In addition, thank you to Senators Farmer and Brandes for voting against this bill.
Stay tuned for updates as this moves into budget conference.