Ron Littlepage writes for The Florida Times Union – “The special legislative session last week offered a prime example of how Tallahassee has fallen off the track… [T]he Legislature [worked] on a bill during the special session to finally set the rules for implementing the medical marijuana amendment that voters had approved. They puffed up their chests and intoned that they were fulfilling the will of the people. But Scott and the legislators completely ignored – yet once again – the voters who overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1 in 2014. When Scott vetoed more than $400 million in spending…, that money was up for grabs during the special session. The Legislature’s budget, which Scott signed, included zero dollars for conservation land purchases through the Florida Forever program. That glaring poke in the eye to voters could have been cured by taking a good chunk of that $400 million Scott vetoed and putting it into Florida Forever and other conservation programs as Amendment 1 ordered. That’s what people and groups from throughout Florida, including the Florida Conservation Coalition, had urged Scott and the Legislature to do. But there was no room for the people of Florida at the horse-trading table occupied by Scott, Corcoran and Negron… In Tallahassee, it’s about the power of a few and the incredible amount of money being spent to buy votes and control the state’s agenda. It’s not about the people of Florida. Are you OK with that? I’m not.” Read Legislators ignore will of the people again
Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “Kern launched the Florida National Scenic Trail, which now stretches more than 1,000 miles from the Big Cypress National Preserve… to the Gulf Islands National Seashore… The Florida Trail is one of only 11 federally designated scenic hiking trails in the United States. It attracts 355,000 people every year… It is also the only warm-weather winter trail in the United States… But the trail has gaps, about 2,800 of them, totaling 300 miles… And the Florida Legislature… isn’t helping… Buying the land that’s needed won’t be cheap… The state had a politically popular land-buying program called Florida Forever that acquired millions of acres of environmentally sensitive land for its award-winning state parks and state forests. But in recent years, legislators have repeatedly stripped money out of the program… So environmental advocates came up with Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment requiring them to fund Florida Forever. The measure passed in 2014 with the support of 75 percent of the voters… In this year’s budget, [legislators] put down zero for Florida Forever. ‘If there was any money in Florida Forever, that would have helped,’ Kern said. Legislative leaders, as they have done repeatedly in the past, promised to come up with money for the program next year. Kern isn’t sure how long the trail can wait, though. He doesn’t know how long he can wait, either.” Read Jim Kern started the Florida Trail five decades ago; he’s still waiting for the Legislature to finish it
Isadora Rangel reports for the TC Palm – “Taxpayers have been billed more than $183,000 to defend the Legislature in a lawsuit that claims lawmakers misspent environmental funds. Environmental groups filed the 2015 complaint alleging the House and the Senate used almost half the money available from a 2014 land conservation constitutional amendment to pay for routine operating expenses… The legal cost is likely to increase. The lawsuit was put on hold during the legislative session that ended in May and is expected to be reopened in mid-June after a special session… The defendants have to file a response to the complaint and the case could go to court in August with potential appeals after that. It could make it as far as the Supreme Court, retired Earthjustice attorney David Guest said… Among the alleged misuses of the money are: - Buying risk management insurance; - Salaries and benefits; - Operational costs for programs that aren’t related to public land management; - Information and technology services. The Legislature claims without paying employees and other expenses state agencies cannot manage or improve land… Senate President Joe Negron, who’s listed as a lawsuit defendant because he heads the Senate, said he agrees Florida Forever should receive more money… Negron has said operating expenses don’t fall under Amendment 1’s intent, but said… a 2016 law he sponsored to dedicate money from the measure for Everglades restoration is a step in the right direction. ‘More people voted for Amendment 1 than voted for me, so I think that’s part of our constitution and we are obligated to fully fund it,’ Negron said...” Read Defending Legislature in Amendment 1 lawsuit cost taxpayers $183,000 to date
Dan DeWitt reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “The state has launched an ambitious cleanup plan pushed forward by a 2016 springs protection bill that was co-sponsored by state Sen. Wilton Simpson… The department… has created a draft that aims to eliminate new contamination of nitrogen… from Weeki Wachee in 20 years. Though the officials and environmentalists interviewed all approve of the goal, many of them doubt the state has the resolve to enforce the measure. Even more questionable is whether residents will be willing to pay for the whopping cost of part of the plan – the estimated $691 million needed to run sewer lines to the more than 30,000 homes in southwestern Hernando County that now depend on septic tanks… [F]arm and fertilizer are to blame for a total of 37 percent of the nitrogen load… 30 percent comes from septic tanks… A previous state law required counties with large spring sheds to either mandate regular septic inspections or pass ordinances regulating the use of fertilizers. The Hernando commission rejected the inspections as too large of a financial burden on homeowners and, in 2013, passed a fertilizer ordinance that was widely panned as toothless… [Robert Knight] said the first priority should be controlling new septic tank construction… [Sen. Simpson] said he will use his power to seek more funding for the Weeki Wachee… ” Read The push to clean up Weeki Wachee Spring comes at a high cost
Kevin Spear reports for the Orlando Sentinel – “For months, drought eased what’s been killing the Indian River. The region’s lack of rain reduced storm water gushing into the coastal estuary, carrying with it pollution from fertilizers, pet waste, decomposing vegetation and other sources… [T]he first downpours leading to the start of the rainy season potentially will flush a stockpile of pollution into rivers and lakes. That nutrient-rich pollution can trigger explosive growth of harmful algae, which in turn brings on fish kills, devastation of aquatic habitats and warnings for people and their pets to stay out of waters…” Read Central Florida drought helped rivers, lakes, but rainy season could make a mess
Anthony Man reports for the Sun Sentinel – “The Democrats on the Broward County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to repudiate President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on global climate change… [C]ommissioners said they still support South Florida efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, including efforts to advance clean energy and incorporate climate change and sea level rise into its new Broward Next comprehensive land-use plan.” Read Broward commissioners challenge Donald Trump on climate change
Scott Powers reports for Florida Politics – “The Florida Constitution Revision Commission now has a set of rules for how it might go about writing major changes to Florida’s Constitution. Those rules – addressing such matters as who will appoint committees, how proposals will move through committees, whether Florida’s Sunshine laws will cover everything – emerged from a sometimes chaotic debate in Orlando… at a meeting that Chair Carlos Beruff adjourned suddenly after he got what he apparently wanted. By a 20-11 vote, the commission adopted a proposal from Gov. Rick Scott-appointee Brecht Heuchan that largely adopts, as a base, the rules used by the previous state Constitution Revision Commission in 1997-98, with a few changes… [O]pponents mounted challenges. Particular among them were assertions that the package did not create a “clawback” promise that Heuchan and others promised, which would allow committee majorities to force proposals to be considered. Nor did it offer explicit language to open meetings… ” Read After a seemingly rule-less meeting, constitution panel adopts rules
Alex Acosta writes for the Miami Herald – “The United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accord reflects this administration’s commitment to promoting pro-growth principles and rebuilding America’s manufacturing base… Under the Paris Accord, each country volunteered how much it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama volunteered the United States to reduce its emissions by between 26 percent and 28 percent by 2025… But other countries did not volunteer to make similarly significant reductions… The Paris Accord asks these sacrifices of American workers as a mere symbolic gesture. Researchers at MIT have estimated that, even if all parties to the accord met their commitments, global temperatures will be reduced by a mere .2 decrees Celsius by 2100… President Trump and his administration remain committed to world leadership on climate issues.” Read Dropping out of Paris Accord right thing for U.S. workers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
June 13, 12:00 pm – Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute at the North Florida Springs Environmental Center in High Springs for Springs Academy Tuesdays; a lunchtime lecture series on Florida’s springs. June’s lecture is on Springs Chemistry. All lectures are free and open to the public. A recommended donation of $5 is appreciated. More information is available here or by calling (386) 454 - 2427.
July 11, 12:00 pm – Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute at the North Florida Springs Environmental Center in High Springs for Springs Academy Tuesdays; a lunchtime lecture series on Florida’tomors springs. July’s lecture is on Springs Biology. All lectures are free and open to the public. A recommended donation of $5 is appreciated. More information is available here or by calling (386) 454 - 2427.
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