FCC News Brief - May 2, 2017

Dinah Voyles Pulver reports for The Daytona Beach News Journal – “Supporters hoping to preserve and protect conservation land and historic sites across Florida spent a frantic weekend calling key legislators trying to convince them to put money in the state budget for Florida Forever… Backers of the 2014 Florida Water and Land Conservation amendment to the state constitution say, for the third year in a row, it appears the budget will fall short of the amendment’s intent to protect conservation land and acquire projects on the Florida Forever priority list… Sen. David Simmons… said, ‘The state of Florida owns lots of land. We have water issues and you have to do first things first.’ Simmons referred to the hundreds of millions of dollars the Legislature has committed to restore the Everglades and help make fixes to Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, as well as $50 million last year for springs projects…  [T]he Florida Conservation Coalition [has] asked that 25 percent of [Amendment One dollars after debt service] be devoted to completing priority acquisitions on the Florida Forever priority list…. Volusia County Council unanimously approved a resolution asking state legislators to put money into the Florida Forever program. But on Monday it appeared there would be no money for Florida Forever and no money for the Rural and Family Lands program… ‘It is reprehensible that the Florida House and Senate could not find one penny for the very purpose of the Trust Fund in their budget,’ stated former Gov. Bob Graham. He called on Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Carlos Trujillo to right this wrong immediately’ by allocating at least $160 million for Florida Forever projects and Florida Communities Trust, as well as to increase funding for the rural lands program… The lack of funding is preventing completion of the Volusia Conservation Corridor, a proposed 80,000 acre wildlife corridor through Volusia and Flagler counties… ” Read Lobbying continues for Florida Forever funding

The Florida Conservation Coalition shares – “The Florida House and Senate have produced budget offers that provide $0 for land acquisition under the extremely popular and successful Florida Forever program… In response to current House and Senate budget offers, Senator Graham, Nathaniel Reed, and Commissioner Constantine released the following statements:… ‘$0 for Florida Forever is not only unacceptable – it’s offensive. The offers show blatant disregard for the will of Florida voters and any desire to leave a better Florida behind for future generations.’ – Nathaniel Reed ‘Not providing substantial funding for Florida Forever, Florida Communities Trust, and the Rural and Family Lands program is a disservice to present and future Florida families. We can invest in these programs while improving our economy; and House and Senate leaders owe it to their constituents to do so.’ – Lee Constantine” Read FCC leaders, Governor Bob Graham, Nathaniel Reed, and Commissioner Lee Constantine, Offended by Current Budget Offers

Isadora Rangel reports for the TC Palm – “Negotiations on the state’s environmental budget fell apart Saturday after the House offered to ax a proposal to help the Indian River Lagoon and other water restoration projects. Environmentalists, however, see a silver lining in the meltdown. They hope a previous agreement to slash the budget for a land preservation program could be open for renegotiation… It’s now up to the chambers’ main budget chairmen to negotiate a final budget and have it ready for a vote by Friday’s end of session… With the entire environmental budget back in play, ‘maybe’ there’s a chance to revive Florida Forever, House natural resources budget chairman Ben Albritton said. Albritton proposed Saturday to revive another land conservation initiative the House and Senate previously agreed to defund. He wants $11 million for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which pays ranchers not to develop their property. The Senate hasn’t offered anything. Yet Albritton offered to cut dollars for a local park program on which he and Bradley already had settled.” Read Environmental budget negotiations crumble; hopes for Florida Forever revived

Tom Hoctor writes for the Tampa Bay Times – “[I]f this (trend of grossly underfunding land protection) continues many iconic landscapes, critical wildlife habitat, and lands essential for providing clean and sufficient water, flood control, storm protection, clean air, and recreation opportunities will be lost forever… The primary goal of [Amendment One] was to ensure that Florida Forever would again be funded for at least $300 million a year to appropriately combat the significant increase in development pressure. However, since the amendment passed, the Legislature has thumbed its nose at voters – and the Florida Constitution – funding Florida Forever for only $15.2 million the last two years. Now the recession is over and Florida is again growing at a rate of approximately 365,000 people a year, rural land is being rapidly lost to development, and hundreds of thousands of new acres of proposed development have been approved in our current lax growth management environment… This is something that we all have the power to change… by the way we vote in the next election.” Read The Legislature is thwarting the people’s will and the state Constitution in refusing to fund Florida Forever

Cleveland Tinker reports for The Gainesville Sun – “Created in 2001, the RFLP is a land preservation program designed to protect important agricultural lands through the acquisition of permanent land conservation easements. Conservation easements place voluntary restrictions on the property rights of landowners in return for compensation or tax benefits… [T]he restrictions are negotiable, but usually involve limiting the lands to their current uses, with no possibility of development on the lands in the future… Keller (a spokesman for Agriculture Commissioner Putnam) said, ‘agricultural lands provide for 300 agricultural commodities, not to mention livelihoods and a rich culture. He said they also support 2 million jobs and billions of dollars in state and local taxes every year that fund education, first responders and much more… Florida Forever is especially good for protecting the water supply in Florida… Florida Forever conservation easements protect “pristine” waters and lands that are critical for recharging the aquifer and providing clean water. Florida Forever protects lands that are most important to providing healthy watersheds and riparian buffers across the state… Riparian buffers are vegetated areas that protect water supplies from pollution, provide bank stabilization and aquatic wildlife habitats.” Read State funding in jeopardy for land conservation programs

Mary Ellen Klas reports for the Miami Herald – “Senate President Joe Negron put his clout behind Florida Power & Light’s quest to have Florida customers pay for natural gas fracking projects in other states. But while his hometown company’s top priority, SB 1238, is scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor, House Speaker Richard Corcoran has decided that’s as far as it will go. Corcoran last week referred the House version of the bill to the House Commerce Committee which was no longer meeting. But the Senate bill could have brought the issue back to life. Now, Corcoran tells the Herald/Times, that won’t be happening. ‘After thorough vetting and discussion, we just had too many reservations about the issue and the potential consequences,’ Corcoran said in an email. ‘In addition, the notion that Florida ratepayers would pay for out-of-state energy production was not in the best interests of the people of Florida.’… The legislation would have overturned a Florida Supreme Court ruling last year...” Read Richard Corcoran pulls the plug on FPL fracking bill for session

The Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board writes – “The Florida Senate traditionally has been where bad ideas are killed, common sense prevails and independent thinking rules. That reputation [was] tested… when the Senate [voted] on a misguided proposal to increase the homestead exemption, one of House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s top priorities. This is part of a secret deal between Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to resolve the state budget and other top issues, but it’s a terrible trade-off…[I]t would have a devastating impact on local governments… Counties and cities could not raise taxes enough to make up the loss. The only alternative would be deep cuts to law enforcement, fire protection, parks and other services… Negron… sold his soul for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to store polluted water that triggered devastating algae blooms in his district.” Read Homestead vote tests Florida Senate

Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin report for the Washington Post – “The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday evening its website would be ‘undergoing changes’ to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information… The changes came less than 24 hours before thousands of protesters were set to march in Washington and around the country in support of political action to push back against the Trump administration’s rollbacks of former president Barack Obama’s climate policies… [T]he website overhaul appears to include not only policy-related changes, but also scrutiny of a scientific Web page that has existed for nearly two decades, and that explained what climate change is and how it worked.” Read EPA website removes climate science site from public view after two decades






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