By BRUCE RITCHIE
It was the third week of the Florida legislative session and the pace definitely picked up. Bills were moving through various committees while budget hearings were being held in the Senate.
The biggest news was that environmentalists and the sugar industry reached an agreement on legislation to fund Gov. Rick Scott’s $880-million Everglades restoration plan.
During a Senate committee meeting on Thursday, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, feigned a heart attack as the bitter rivals announced their support for SB 768. The House version of the bill, HB 7065, unanimously passed the House on Friday.
See “Everglades compromise hailed, passes Senate committee,” March 21, The Florida Current.
ENERGY CHAIRMAN DIES OF CANCER
The saddest news of the week was the death of Rep. Clay Ford, R-Gulf Breeze and chairman of the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee.
He was uniformly described as a warm, Southern gentleman who had the distinction of serving in both the Arkansas and Florida legislatures.
In 2011, he sought to pass a committee energy bill that would have allowed utilities to charge more for renewable energy. But he ran into opposition from Gov. Rick Scott and groups including Americans for Prosperity.
Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami and the new subcommittee chairman, took the time to talk about the loss of Ford, about energy policy moving forward and about being a former cast member on the TV show “The Apprentice.”
See “With Rep. Ford’s death, subcommittee chairman Rep. Jose Felix Diaz contemplates energy bills,” March 20, The Florida Current.
WATER QUALITY DEAL
An agreement between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency on implementing water quality rules won quick approval in the House and Senate.
Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen warned the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee that U. S. District Judge Robert Hinkle was not going to accept the deal. We’ll see whether Cullen is right.
But utilities and industry groups have backed DEP in framing the issue in the Legislature. Even Rep. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando and sponsor of another bill calling for restoring Florida’s springs, told committee members that she supports the committee bill approving the agreement.
“We’ve got to get started,” Stewart said. “We can’t just wait around and have debate after debate and not accomplish anything.
See “Deal with feds on water quality rules wins quick approval from House committee,” March 20, The Florida Current.
I’ve been covering petroleum contamination site cleanups for 21 years since I wrote a series for the Independent Florida Alligator while in graduate school at the University of Florida.
It feels like the Department of Environmental Protection is making some progress. But some legislators are concerned about contamination sites that are not in the DEP program.
See:“Petroleum Tanks bill moving amid concerns about cleanup program,” The Florida Current, March 22
QUOTE OF THE WEEK (PART ONE):
“Senator Simpson, you are nothing short of a miracle worker. I would never have thought that I would have lived long enough to see all these disparate groups stand up at a meeting and all agree to one set of law here.” — Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Peterburg, speaking about the Everglades legislation compromise.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK (PART TWO):
“This is just a simple amendment that would deed the Florida Everglades over to United States Sugar.” — Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, joking about his SB 934 related to stormwater management permits, and unrelated to the Everglades.
SO MANY STORIES, SO LITTLE TIME
Florida lawmakers pounce on cat bill
TALLAHASSEE — This could be the ultimate legislative cat fight.
A House subcommittee Wednesday approved a controversial bill that could help clear the way for programs that involve capturing free-roaming cats, neutering and vaccinating them and turning them loose again.
(Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Floridaenvironments.com. Do not forward, copy or reproduce without permission, which can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org .)