Florida House Legislative Update from Pam McVety, January 18, 2012

We have been asked for rapid feedback on bills of high concern to us.  As you can see HB 639 and HB 1103 continue to move along, albeit with some modest opposition now.  Especially on HB 1103, we are being joined by boaters, hunters and fishers in opposition.  Preston Robertson of the Wildlife Federation on 1103 and Eric Draper of Audubon of Florida (on 639) did outstanding jobs representing the environmental community. We need to keep letting our representatives know how we feel about these two bills as well as the leadership and the sponsors.

HB 639: Alert Even though all the waters in Florida are a public resource, HB 639 would put reclaimed waters under the exclusive control of utilities with no oversight by the water management districts.  Twelve members voted for this bill and only two legislators, Representatives Vasilinda Rehwinkel and Garcia voted against this bill.  Its next stop is the Rulemaking and Regulation Subcommittee.  No meeting is currently scheduled.  Unfortunately key legislators support this bill, and the South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Melissa Meeker supports the concept if not the specific language. The City of Tampa is the prime mover behind this bill. Environmental groups are working hard to stop it, but it is moving quickly through the committee process.  Your urgent assistance is needed to contact the chair and members of the Rulemaking and Regulation Subcommittee.  The chair is Representative Chris Dorworth (R) a real estate investor from Lake Mary and his phone number is 850/488-5843.   To see the names and contact information for the other committee members go to  and click on committees and then click on the representatives names. 
  
HB 1103:  Alert This bill proposes to remove half a million acres of public land and put it in private ownership by changing the definition of ordinary high water line to the low water line.  This in essence will make it illegal for you to hunt, fish, camp or picnic along Florida’s freshwater bodies where these activities have traditionally taken place.  Nine members voted for this bill and four voted against it.  The four who voted against this bill are Representative Vasilinda Rehwinkel, Sands, Perman and Bullard.  The next stop for this bill is the Civil Justice Subcommittee.  It is not on its agenda today (January 18) and its next meeting is not scheduled. This bill is also moving quickly through the process in spite of the valiant efforts of the different environmental groups. The chair is Eric Eisnaugle(R) an attorney from Orlando and his phone number is 850/488-9770.  His hobby is wildlife watching. 
 
PCB SCWP 12-01:  This committee bill was heard today by the Select Committee on Water Policy.  It increases the consumptive use permit length for alternative water sources to 30 years in order to coincide with bond expiration of a utility.  The problem is that the length of consumptive permits keeps getting longer.  This can be good for the applicant, but in water scarce areas it reduces the flexibility of the water management districts to meet the needs of all users.  If harm occurs to the natural systems it is very difficult to revoke a permit and thirty years is a long time to wait for the permit to expire. Currently, a utility could get a permit for up to 20 years.  The good news is that this is only for permits for alternative water supplies.  This means salt water; brackish surface and groundwater, reclaimed water and any water that is designated nontraditional.  If HB 639 passes, the effects on permitting of reclaimed water would not be there. This is a proposed committee bill.  The chair of the Select committee on Water Policy is Representative Trudi Williams (R),a civil engineer from Fort Myers and a governing board member from the South Florida Water Management District. Her phone number is 488-2047.  

Tomorrow, January 19, the State Affairs Committee meets to consider HB 115 (Drake(R)) that eliminates the prohibition on spreading septic tank sludge on the ground and HB 989 (Gonzalez (R)) that postpones the deadline for ocean outfalls that discharge of domestic wastewater facilities to meet more stringent treatment requirements.  The Ocean Outfall bill is particularly unfortunate from the standpoint of freshwater conservation. Both bills exemplify thedisregard for protection Florida’s natural resources by many members of the Florida Legislature. This committee meets in House Office Building 17 from 8:00 – 10:30, tomorrow.