It's Happening, the Legislature is Taking over the Water Management Districts

Urgent. We hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but just as we predicted, the new "improved SB 1834" has been reincarnated as SPB 7092.  It is very similar to 1834, but, to avoid appropriate public viewing and normal procedures, it is coming up in the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday, February 15.  Let's be clear about this, it would not likely have passed the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. This is a clear political move by those who feel they can control the Senate Budget Committee, and they are the same people who want to take over our Water Management Districts. 

1. The legislature assumes full authority over the Water Management District Budgets. (The Governor's Office only has control over the final submissions to the Legislature.)  The process is complex, and utltimately could result in a sort of appellate review by the Legislative Budget Commission, who only has to give 7 days notice of its actions, but through legislative channels which vary. The budget can be altered in any way by the legislature under proposed provision 373.535(3)(b), line 272 of proposed bill. This is the end of regional water management.  Period.

2.  There are two separate tracks for funding. The one for the "core missions" is heavily oriented towards funding water supply and alternative water supply. The other track includes regulation.  The bill does not consider regulation to be a core mission or essential to implementing core missions.  In reality regulation is bedrock for protecting water supplies, water quality and natural systems (Core Missions). In this bill it is placed in a separate funding category and is subject to not being funded at all. (373.503(3)(a) and (b), line 126 of proposed bill. ) 

How regulation (which includes the setting of Minimum Flows and Levels (MFL's)), which is contained in three titles of seven in Chapter 373 , is not a core mission, shows where some of these legislators are.  Either, they want to intimidate regulators,  slow down the setting of MFL's, or they are setting the stage for moving consumptive use permitting to Tallahassee to a State Water Board or DEP. All are unacceptable.

3. As to funding, in the proposed committee bill, the legislature would set by statute the millage rate for the "core missions" and set a separate millage rate for administration, regulation, outreach and management on an annual basis.  This would provide a way to retaliate against the district on an annual basis.  The Legislature will then set the maximum ad valorem millage rates in keeping with the budgets they approve, therefore the caps as imposed last year would no longer be "needed". For FY2012, some rates are "restored" from last year's bill, but Southwest Florida and Northwest Florida Water Management Districts are actually reduced.

Write or call Governor Scott and ask him to fight to regain his constitutional authority to oversee water management district budgets and to resist legislative intrusion into executive branch (his) affairs.  Ask him to fight to remove the caps on revenue that will allow the districts to resume the collection of sufficient ad valorem taxes to do the work Florida so desperately needs, and to keep regulatory issues out of politics and at the regional level.

Write or call Senate PresidentHaridopolosPresident-elect GaetzSpeaker of the House CannonSpeaker-designate Weatherford
Chair, Senate Budget Committee,Senator JD Alexander (R)Vice Chair: Senator Joe Negron (R)Chair: Senate Budget Sub-Committee on General Government Appropriations, Senator Alan Hays (R)Vice Chair: Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto (R)and members:Senator Oscar Braynon, II (D)Senator Larcenia J. Bullard (D)Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R),Senator Audrey Gibson (D)Senator Dennis L. Jones D.C. (R), and Senator Jack Latvala (R) and your local representative and senator.

Urge them to (1) remove the current revenue caps and restore maximum millage rates; (2) restore oversight of district budgets exclusively to the Governor’s Office; and (3) avoid legislative involvement in the "core missions", regulatory functions, administration outreach and management of the water management districtsIn other words restore the districts to their status in 2010. 

Vicki Tschinkel, Estus Whitfield, Pam McVety