Florida environmentalists say there are more bills to work on

By Bruce Ritchie

After scoring victories last week, environmental group lobbyists at the Florida Capitol say there is plenty more work to do during the 2012 legislative session.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham is interviewed by reporters in November following a Florida Conservation Coalition rally.

Environmental groups dropped their opposition on Tuesday to HB 503 dealing with environmental permitting and HB 639 dealing with reclaimed water after they were amended to address environmental concerns, according to the Florida Current.

But the environmental groups still were not celebrating — and they said the session isn’t over yet with five more weeks to go.

“There is no shortage of bad bills out there,” said Mary Jean Yon, representing Audubon of Florida. “It’s just one by one we try to step in and resolve them.”

Among the bills that environmentalists still are watching is HB 421, which would exempt professional landscapers from local fertilizer restrictions.

Others are HB 695, which would encourage oil drilling on state lands and HB 1103, which would environmentalists say would result in the giveaway of state lands.

Former U.S. Senator Bob Graham last month urged legislators to oppose HB 1103. On Thursday, Rep. Tom Goodson said he thinks his bill is likely dead for the session with time running out and two more committee stops to go.

“I think we can all agree to disagree,” Goodson, R-Rockledge, told the Florida Current. “At the same time the issue has to be addressed. There are going to have to be compromises on both sides.”

Stephanie Kunkel, representing Clean Water Action, said with the changes to the reclaimed water and environmental permitting bills, it was nice to be able to refocus on other issues.

“I think it’s also a testament all the environmental groups were together on a majority of the bad provisions (in both bills),” she said.

“I want to highlight this was not a perfect Kumbaya moment,” she said. “But I think this is something we can live with.”

 (Story and photograph copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Floridaenvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained from bruceBritchie@gmail.com .)