IRNA fights for home rule and clean water in Tallahassee
February is a busy time in Indian River County! If the traffic this season is anything to go by, it will probably be a banner season for our local economy. This is an opportune time to mention that the Lagoon is an economic driver of the regional economy, generating $7.6 billion annually. It provides jobs, housing and industry to Florida residents, and recreational and tourism opportunities to visitors. Now, more than ever, it is important to remember that our water matters. In addition to our sunshine, it’s why people come to Florida! There is a lot going on right now and we will be posting more in a few days with more info and events coming up. Please keep your eyes open for it! Throughout this legislative session, we have alerted you to bills which seem like they will harm our land and water more than they will help. The IRNA sent an extensive letter earlier in the session to Sen. Mayfield and Rep. Grall listing many bills we were concerned with. Since that time many of the bills have changed, passed, or died in committee. We wanted to provide you an update on where certain important bills are in the two-week period remaining for this legislative session. At the end of the bill summary is a sample letter you can modify or send “as is” to our State representatives reiterating our pro and con positions on the bills described.
SB 832/HB 561 – Governor’s Blue-Green Algae Taskforce Recommendations – IRNA and CWC sent a letter to our legislators about this bill specifically. This bill would require implementation of additional recommendations from the Governor’s own Task Force related to septic tank inspections and prioritizing and assessing the effectiveness of waterway clean-up plans. This is a step in the right direction to lessen the blue-green algae outbreaks that routinely threaten Florida’s waters and economy. This bill is moving through committees and needs some help.
SB 2508: Environmental Resources – We are appalled at the Senate’s backroom behavior in passing SB 2508. Full of egregious actions which destroy the work the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers have accomplished over the last two years to better manage Lake Okeechobee. Not to mention a provision that allows Florida Electric Utilities to approve their own wetland permits. This bill was amended before it was passed in the Senate, due to the actions of aroused environmental groups and people like you. But the amendments do not do enough. The House has yet to pass a similar bill, and with more letters and phone calls, it may not ever become law. Thankfully, Gov. Desantis is opposed to this bill and has said he may veto it. For the best source of information on this egregious bill, watch this video. (See the misleading postcard that has been spotted all over Florida further down in this email.)
SB 198/HB 349: Water Resources Management – Promotes ‘Seagrass Mitigation Banks’ which involves destroying local seagrass fields in one area and restoring them in another. The last thing we need is to get rid of is ANY seagrass where it is alive right now. This bill seems designed to aid developers to build in areas where seagrass prevents them from doing so.
Home Rule – The concept of home rule is important because it keeps control of our community in the hands of citizens and the local leaders we elect. The most precious powers a city in Florida has are its Home Rule powers. The ability to establish its form of government through its charter, and to then enact ordinances, codes, plans and resolutions without prior state approval is a tremendous authority. These powers are constantly under assault in the legislature. Here are several examples from this yea’s legislative session. SB 512/HB 325 Except for those local communities that have pre-2011 ordinances, like Vero Beach, cities and counties would be limited to conducting essentially unenforceable registration of vacation rental homes. This bill is still moving through committees in the House and the Senate. SB 280/HB 403 would require local governments to publish – at their own expense – a business impact statement for ANY ordinance it passed. Not only is this an unfunded mandate, but it would allow businesses to “lay in wait” for an ordinance to pass so they can file suit and collect taxpayer dollars. This has passed the Senate and is moving through the House. SB 620/HB 569 would allow a business to sue a local government for profit loss due to an ordinance it passed. Florida TaxWatch determined the legislation “could lead to a number of financially motivated and malicious lawsuits, costing local governments over $900 million annually.” This bill has passed the Senate looks primed for approval in the House.
Make Your Voice Heard!
Sample letter/phone script you can use when writing or calling our elected officials. Dear Sen. Mayfield/Rep. Grall: I am a resident of Indian River County and wish to express my opinion of several bills before you this legislative session.
SUPPORT: Governor’s Blue-Green Algae Taskforce Recommendations (SB 832/HB 561) – this bill will help our water, and our water needs a lot of help! The recommendations of the Blue Green Algae task force are long overdue to be implemented. This bill needs help to make it through both the Senate and the House. Please do everything you can to help this bill pass!
OPPOSE: SB 2508 is a terrible idea and I hope you do everything in your power to stop it. The special interests are coming out strong for this one, so please stand up for the people and the environment, and not big corporations who could afford to spend a little more to clean up their act. (And who already get huge subsidies from the government!)
OPPOSE: SB 198/HB 349: Water Resources Management – Seagrass is already incredibly scare, We need to do all we can to keep what we have and expand it. Mitigation banks mean that some current seagrass beds would be harmed/destoryed in order for new ones to be planted. Seagrass is precious, we need all we can get. A similar bill was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist back in 2008. The Governor at the time expressed concerns about the long-term success of artificially-created seagrass beds. He also pointed out the mitigation banks would likely result in a net destruction of seagrass beds across the state.
OPPOSE any bill which preempts Home Rule. Three bills that are especially bad for local governments are: SB 512/HB 325 SB 280/HB 403 SB 620/HB 569. The Senate has already passed these bills, but the House could stop them! Traditionally preemption was used to align state and local laws to make sure there were no inconsistencies. New types of powerful preemptions – called maximum preemption, blanket preemption, nuclear preemption and super-preemption – are now often used to void or block local government actions. Preemption is not always “bad”. “Bad” preemption deters policy innovation, limits local governments’ ability to make policy or undermines protection of individual rights. Most new preemptions are driven by partisan, ideological or special-interest motivations. Business-funded corporate interest groups are using their considerable political influence, gained through campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, to push preemption legislation in the Florida Legislature.
Thank you for your time and attention. Sincerely,
Sen. Debbie Mayfield
Represents: District 17 (all of Indian River; part of Brevard)
Capital address: 322 Senate Office Building, 402 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Capital phone: 850-487-5017
House Rep. Erin Grall
Represents: District 54 (all of Indian River; part of St. Lucie)
Capital address: 209 House Office Building, 402 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
District address: 1801 27th St., Suite B2-203, Vero Beach, FL 32960-3388
Capital phone: 850-717-5054
District phone: 772-778-5005
Gov. Ron DeSantis
Represents: All Florida citizens
Address: The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (flgov.com/email-the-governor)
BEWARE OF A MISLEADING POSTCARD
Pretty much every environmental organization that has taken a stand on SB 2508 is against it. Do not let out of town special interests to convince you that this bill is good. Even amended as it was, it is still a bad bill. Please use the numbers above and call Senator Mayfield and Representative Grall and let them know you DO NOT support this poison pill bill. Please share this message with your friends. This postcard has been reportedly received by multiple people in and around Florida.
If we have learned anything in this process it is that YOUR input up the line DOES matter. The only way we can collectively influence bad legislation sponsored by wealthy special interests is to collectively object…it is only then, that we can make a difference. So please, write often to our elected leaders. Don’t consider this a “one and done”.