FCC News Brief - May 6, 2019

Quote of the Day: “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” - Helen Keller

Read Why won’t the Florida Legislature fund land conservation?- “Florida Forever was the nation’s leading state land conservation program. From 1990 to 2008, the Florida Legislature and the governor — Democrats and Republicans alike — supported $300 million annually for state land conservation through bonds backed by the state’s real estate transfer tax, known as the documentary stamp tax. Florida Forever, and its predecessor, Preservation 2000, worked and worked well...The Legislature zeroed out funding for Florida Forever in 2009 because of a combination of the real estate recession, a resulting precipitous decline in documentary stamp revenues, and shift in state politics with a new governor and Legislature...In 2012, we were forced to take our case to Florida’s voters. We collected nearly 1 million signatures to place the Water and Land Conservation Amendment on the November 2014 ballot via the initiative petitions process to constitutionally dedicate one-third of the doc stamp revenues for land conservation, management, and restoration.  Florida voters again demonstrated their overwhelming support for land conservation, approving Amendment 1 by 75 percent, 4.2 million “Yes” votes, more votes than anything else on the ballot. This seemed like a mandate to fund Florida Forever. But since that historic vote in 2014, the Legislature has done nearly everything in its power to thwart the will of the voters, refusing year after year to adequately fund Florida Forever. The state budget the Legislature will approve this week appropriates a paltry $33 million for Florida Forever. We know Florida Forever really works. We know the benefits of land conservation. We have a constitutionally dedicated source of state funding for land conservation.  Documentary stamp revenues are at an all-time high since the recession. The money is there. We know Florida voters support land conservation. So why won’t the Legislature fund Florida Forever? Will Abberger writes Opinion for Florida Today.

Read Lawmakers sign off on budget as session ends - “Florida’s Republican-dominated Legislature quickly put the finishing touches on a record $91.1 billion spending plan Saturday, meeting numerous requests from freshman Gov. Ron DeSantis. While declaring “great wins for conservatives,” along with environmental protections that should appeal to Democrats, the governor said he intends to use his line-item veto power but didn’t specify what spending he might target… The Senate voted 38-0 to approve the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, and the House followed with a 106-2 vote. The only dissenters were Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, and Rep. Cindy Polo, D-Miramar. The budget includes high-profile spending issues such as $680 million for the Everglades and other water projects; a $242-per-student increase in school funding; and $50 million to maintain for at least another year the state’s embattled tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida...Environmentalists, however, expressed disappointment in the session, in part because the budget includes $34.5 million for the Florida Forever land-preservation program --- much less than the program has often received in the past….” Jim Turner reports for the News Service of Florida.

Read DeSantis should reject whims of top lawmakers to expand toll roads - “It’s a fact of Florida political life that the all-powerful presiding officers in the Legislature often get what they want. But that doesn’t mean they should. Senate President Bill Galvano, of Bradenton, easily achieved his top priority of three new major toll road projects that will cost billions of dollars by the time they’re supposed to be finished a decade from now...In Galvano’s vision, these aren’t mere ribbons of asphalt. They are “cores,” corridors of regional economic significance that will add hurricane evacuation options, reduce traffic congestion and improve water, sewer and broadband access to underserved areas. Opponents say the infrastructure improvements will be magnets for suburban sprawl...The bill (SB 7068) now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his approval, and more than 75 groups, led by the Sierra Club and 1000 Friends of Florida, oppose the new toll roads and will urge a DeSantis veto. DeSantis has questioned Florida’s reliance on toll roads and has emphasized the need to reduce gridlock in the urban centers of South Florida, Orlando, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, where these three new corridors won’t provide relief. In his first months in office, DeSantis’ emphasis on environmental protection has been well-received by Floridians. He can build on that momentum with a veto message that will state the obvious: The Legislature simply has not made the case for these new roads. The expansion of state highways — especially toll roads — must be the result of careful long-range planning and not left to the whims of powerful lawmakers. Not only that, but “the state’s unique natural environment is central to our economy, our quality of life and our identity as Floridians.” Who said that? DeSantis — in his State of the State address in March. This bill is an opportunity for him to back up his words with action…” From the South Florida Sun Sentinel Editorial Board.

Read When it comes to budget-balancing, in trusts do Florida lawmakers trust- “According to the proposed $91.1 billion fiscal year 2020 state budget lawmakers are expected to adopt Saturday afternoon, only $33 million from a potential $300 million in the Florida Forever land acquisition trust fund will be spent to purchase sensitive habitats and water resources. The remainder will be funneled into the general fund – again. Gov. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, called for a “sweep check” in his proposed $91.3 billion budget request, allocating $100 million for the Florida Forever conservation land acquisition program, which would have been the highest dedicated annual allocation in the four years the fund has been accruing revenues...Lawmakers justified sweeping Florida Forever of nearly $70 million to other FY20 allocations because more than $100 million in unspent dedications will remain available next fiscal year. Voters approved Florida Forever as Constitutional Amendment 1 in 2014. The measure requires the state to set aside one-third of revenue from a state tax on documentary stamps annually for 20 years to acquire conservation lands. The fund accrues up to $300 million a year. Using a provision in the state’s General Appropriations Act that authorizes lawmakers to transfer “unappropriated cash balances from specified trust funds” to the general fund and budget stabilization funds, Florida legislators have only used $88 million of the $740 million that has accumulated in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund since 2014 for land acquisition. Last year, after lawmakers swept $140 million from the fund for other purposes, Leon County Judge Charles Dodson ordered the Legislature to spend the money as intended. Much of that money remains unallocated. Efforts to check Florida Forever trust fund sweeps again failed this year, including Senate Bill 944, filed by Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, which would have required legislators to appropriate at least $100 million every year to Florida Forever. The bill stalled after passing one committee hearing…” John Haughey reports for FL Watchdog.

Read Gov. DeSantis promised to fix Florida’s toxic water. We promised to track his progress- “"It is not what we have that will make us a great nation; it is the way in which we use it." That was a young Theodore Roosevelt, speaking on the nation's centennial in July 1886, more than two decades before he would tell a group of U.S. governors conservation was "a national duty."   Roosevelt foresaw, earlier than most, the consequences of devouring our natural resources; he recognized the long-term risks of polluting waterways. Imagine how he would regard Florida's current, self-inflicted water crisis. "I told you so" seems like a fitting statesman's response. As he's worked to fix Florida's environmental problems, Gov. Ron DeSantis has invoked Roosevelt as his role model. DeSantis isn't the first politician to do so — but his swift action after taking office signaled his beliefs run deeper than campaign-trail platitudes. He issued a broad environmental executive order in January, two days after his inauguration. At the time, I promised to track his progress and report back to you. Four months into the new governor's tenure, it's time for an update. Here's where DeSantis stands on the environmental promises he's made…” Eve Samples writes Opinion for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read Straws, gardens and growth: A rundown of bills that strip local governments of powers - “From plastic straws to sanctuary cities, the Republican-controlled Legislature made a full-on assault on local home rule with a number of bills that strip cities and counties of their authority to make rules and regulations. Even the ability to say where a person can plant vegetables came under attack. Here's a short list of the top measures dealing with local preemption....Plastic Straws (APPROVED): Ten years ago, the Florida Legislature barred cities and counties from banning plastic grocery bags. This year, lawmakers turned their attention to plastic straws. The Legislature approved a five-year moratorium on counties and cities from passing ordinances prohibiting plastic straws while the state studies the ordinances already approved by 10 cities that have already done so, including Fort Myers Beach. Many restaurants around the state have voluntarily switched from plastic to either paper or glass straws. Growth management (APPROVED): House Bill 7103, approved during the waning hours of session Friday night, would make it harder to challenge a developer's plans for a new neighborhood or changes in local comprehensive plans. For one thing, anyone who challenges a plan amendment and loses has to pay the prevailing party's attorney fees. Also, local governments cannot require affordable housing in new developments. 1000 Friends of Florida said the measure, if if it becomes law, will have a chilling effect on the enforcement of comprehensive plans…” Jeffrey Schweers reports for the Tallahassee Democrat.

Read Trump erases offshore drilling rules enacted after BP oil spill- “The Trump administration on Thursday dismantled safety rules for offshore drilling put in place by the Obama administration after the disastrous BP oil spill fouled the Gulf of Mexico nearly a decade ago. The rollbacks are a major victory for the oil and gas industry that has criticized the Obama rules as too onerous and costly to comply with, but which supporters say have helped prevent a repeat of the accident that killed 11 workers and spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil in 2010. The final version of the changes to Well Control Rules come shortly after the Interior Department said it was pushing back plans to open up vast new areas of coastline for oil and gas exploration in federal waters, a move that would delay the controversial expansion until after the 2020 election. That new rules are designed to ease drilling in places like the Gulf of Mexico, where oil production reached a record 1.9 million barrels a day at the end of last year, according to the Energy Information Administration…” Eric Wolff and Ben Lefebvre report for POLITICO.

Read Florida’s Rep. Rooney wants Republicans to embrace a carbon tax - “He’s an ardent carbon tax supporter, has called for an end to coal-fired energy, and said the GOP is beholden to fossil-fuel interests. Rep. Francis Rooney is a two-term congressman from Florida’s Southern Gulf Coast and—surprisingly—a Republican himself. He remains a traditional conservative on most issues: he supports President Donald Trump’s border wall and opposes the Affordable Care Act and abortion. But he diverts sharply from his party on environment issues. The former construction magnate and close friend of former President George W. Bush has a plan to get his party on board with taxing greenhouse gas emissions. This Congress, he replaces former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) as the Republican co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus, which works to reach bipartisan goals to address climate change… Rooney, who shuns political action committee contributions, said oil and coal industry political fundraising “is heavily skewed toward Republicans” and it has influenced the party’s position on climate change. Rooney is a co-sponsor on H.R. 763, a bill that would place a $15 fee per metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted from burning crude oil, natural gas, or coal. He’s also a staunch backer of Everglades restoration and opposes drilling off Florida’s Coast. He is confident that, if he sells the concept of a carbon tax right, it just might convince free-market backers. “First of all, it’s a way to head off something worse,” Rooney said, pointing to Democratic ideas to curb emissions, like a cap-and-trade scheme. “This is a market sensitive deal, it doesn’t require a bureaucracy, you just put the tax in and there it goes.” So far, House Republicans—even ones who say that reducing carbon emissions should be a priority—are unconvinced…” Tiffany Stecker reports for Bloomberg Tax.


From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Sustainability Administrator - City of Fort Lauderdale

Marine Science Faculty Position- Florida Keys Community College

Executive Director - Friends of Gumbo Limbo

Upcoming Environmental Events:

May 4th - 8:00am-4:00pm - Grand Opening of Bogey Creek Preserve - (Jacksonville) - After years of work to obtain and make improvements to the lands at Bogey Creek Preserve, North Florida Land Trust is pleased to be hosting grand opening events at their first public park. The property, located off Cedar Point Road in North Jacksonville, will officially open to the public on Saturday, May 4. Bogey Creek Preserve is a 75-acre scenic preserve consisting of a mix of maritime hammock forest, seep-fed cypress swamps and mixed pine-oak forest. The preserve neighbors Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and protects nearly one mile of critical marsh front on Clapboard and Bogey Creeks. Grand opening events at Bogey Creek Preserve will be held on Saturday, May 4. From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., guides will be leading a birdwatching trip through the preserve. Nature yoga and a hike will take place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. A naturalist tour will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., guests can participate in a botany hike. The events are free and open to the public, but space is limited. Guests must register at nflt.org/calendarofevents or email Stewardship Manager Emily Dunn at edunn@nflt.org. Parking is located at 6141 Cedar Point Rd., Jacksonville, FL, 32226. Starting Saturday, May 4, the park will be open to the public seven days a week from sunrise to sunset.

May 7th - 10:00 AM - Lake County Public Hearing - (Tavares) - Lake County will host a Public Hearing regarding transportation improvements to Round Lake Road at the Lake County Administration Building in the Board Chambers (2nd floor), located at 315 W. Main Street, Tavares, Florida 32778. The County Commission meeting will begin at 10:00am with the public hearing held after that time as determined by the meeting agenda. The Round Lake Road PD&E Study recommendations will be the focus of the public hearing. Click here to learn more about the Round Lake Road Extension Project.

May 9th - 16th - Clean Water Paddle Series - (Pensacola Beach) - Join the Healthy Gulf for the Clean Water Paddle Series every Thursday at 6 pm. Paddleboards, kayaks, canoes—all paddlecraft are welcome. Paddleboards will be available for rental. We’ll paddle around Little Sabine Bay for up to one hour, then enjoy the sunset from The Shaka Bar. Environmental education will be provided before, during, and after the paddle by Healthy Gulf and others. Learn about seagrass, clean water, marine life, and how you can help to protect it all. For more information about the Clean Water Paddle Series please visit Healthy Gulf on Facebook or call 850-687-9968 or christian@healthygulf.org. Meet at Aloha Wine and Liquor, 649 Pensacola Beach Blvd, Pensacola Beach.

May 16-19 - 39th Annual Florida Native Plant Society Conference - (Crystal River)- Our theme this year "Transitions" is pertinent to the Nature Coast region of Florida in a number of ways - sea level rise, migrations of ecosystems due to climate change, and the transition zone between north and south Florida.  You will be delighted by mind-expanding experiences, tempted by sumptuous meals (including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free) and amazed by the networking and social opportunities. As always, we will offer an abundance of presentations and workshops. 9301 West Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429 . Click here for attendee and vendor registration.

June 10-14, June 24-28, 2019 - Camp Kids in the Woods at the Austin Cary Forest - (Gainesville) - Is your 6th-9th grade child looking for fun adventure this summer?  Consider Camp Kids in the Woods! Campers will conduct various field explorations led by local scientists from forestry, wildlife, and water resources. Highlights include: fishing, handling wildlife, exploring local ecosystems, a trip to a local spring, camping out one night at the Austin Cary Forest, building wildlife nesting boxes, and participating in games and scavenger hunts. After a week of fun in the forest, campers gain a better understanding and deeper appreciation of their natural world and what is required to be a good steward of the environment. Camp Kids in the Woods summer program is a collaborative effort between the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the USDA Forest Service. Session 1: June 10-14, 2019; Session 2: June 24-28, 2019. For more information and to register visit: www.campkidsinthewoods.org , or contact the Camp Director, Molly Disabb at kidsinthewoods@ifas.ufl.edu

Do you know of an upcoming environmental event or meeting you would like to include in the FCC News Brief? Send us a quick e-mail and we will include it for you.

Petitions

Save Lake County-Say NO to the Round Lake Road Extension

Tell Florida Lawmakers: Stop Destructive Tollway Bills

Save the Heritage Trees at Martin Luther King Jr. Park - Winter Park

No Fracked Gas in Tampa Bay

Help Save Our Panthers

End collection & removal of tropical marine life from Phil Foster Park

Thinking of going electric? Nextcar Pledge

Another Gulf is Possible

Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

We hope you enjoy this service and find it valuable. Our goal is to provide you with the latest and most relevant environmental news for Floridians. Our hope is that you will use this information to more effectively and frequently contact your elected representatives, and add your voice to the growing chorus of Floridians concerned about the condition of our environment and the recent direction of environmental policies.

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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 80 conservation-minded organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.  

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