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Committee meetings have wrapped up here in Tallahassee this week, providing Audubon Florida a roadmap to our top issues in the 2020 Legislative Session.
Audubon Florida
Audubon Advocate | Your Policy Update
Fireworks debris left on public beaches.
Fireworks debris left on public beaches.
Fireworks Bill Advances in Both Chambers, as Audubon Works to Limit Impacts
The fireworks bill making its way through the Florida House and Senate Committees has been improved by Audubon staff and the voices of our members, but not yet stopped.

SB 140, sponsored by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Jacksonville), allows the legal purchase and use of personal explosive fireworks on designated holidays such as Independence Day, Memorial Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.

Thanks to the concerns expressed by many local governments, citizens groups, and Audubon over the expanded use of explosive fireworks, Senator Hutson introduced an amendment that protects local government control and clarifies that the proposed legislation will not supersede local regulation related to fireworks. The amendment was adopted and on Tuesday, SB 140 unanimously passed the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee

On Wednesday the House companion bill HB 0065 was passed in the Local, Federal, and Veterans Affairs Committee. The sponsor,  Representative Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral), introduced an amendment identical to the Senate version, protecting local government control. Representative Ana Eskamani (D-Orlando) reiterated the environmental and fire hazard concerns expressed in testimony provided by Audubon Florida.
Audubon Florida’s Director of Policy Beth Alvi testified in both committees to highlight the devastating impact unregulated personal explosive fireworks use can have on vulnerable species, conservation land, and fragile habitats. 

Video of the House Subcommittee hearing: Click here.
Video of the Senate Subcommittee hearing: Click here.

Media Coverage: 
Fox 35: Click here to learn more.
WMFE: Click here to learn more.
Blue-winged Teal.
Blue-winged Teal. Photo: Lynnette Spence
Comprehensive Water Legislation Being Considered by Florida Senate
Senator Debbie Mayfield’s (R-Vero Beach) Water Quality Improvements bill, SB 712, went through a major update this week to incorporate much of Governor DeSantis’ water quality legislative recommendations. 

This bill houses the most comprehensive water legislation Florida has seen in years, and includes recommendations for septic tanks, wastewater facilities, stormwater management, a maintenance and inspection program for utilities, as well as an inspection and reporting program for agriculture. The bill unanimously passed the Community Affairs Committee on Monday.
Sandhill Crane.
Sandhill Crane. Photo: Vincent Hagel
Updates on Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES)
The third of a series of nine planned meetings of the Southwest-Central Florida Connector Task Force Meeting was held on December 9, 2019 in LaBelle to discuss the Florida Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) program.

Discussions remain in the conceptual stages: what is the purpose of these roads? How will the other considerations, including hurricane evacuation, congestion mitigation, trade and logistics, broadband, water, and sewer connectivity, be incorporated into the toll-road planning process?

Concerns about the need and the financial viability of these roads continue to be expressed at these meetings.  Audubon staff is represented on all three task forces by Charles Lee (Suncoast and Turnpike) and Dr. Paul Gray (Polk to Collier).

Click here to see the December 9, 2019 meeting.

Legislation championed by Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) last session paved the way for the development of M-CORES. Its goal is to build three new toll roads in the next 10 years — extending the Suncoast Parkway to Jefferson County; connecting the turnpike to the parkway; and building another toll road connecting Polk and Collier counties.

Stay engaged in the planning and discussions!

The Suncoast Connector Task Force Meeting will be held on December 17, 2019 in Perry and the Northern Turnpike Connector Task Force Meeting will be held on December 18, 2019 in Ocala.

To stay up to date on planned meetings and community outreach events, click here.

Great Egret. Photo: Clyde Comstock.
Great Egret. Photo: Clyde Comstock.
Senior U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Rejects Florida's Apalachicola Water Arguments
Senior U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Paul J. Kelly released an 81 page report siding with Georgia in the ongoing water dispute over flows to the Apalachicola River and Bay.

The report, as summarized by the Tallahassee Democrat, “said mismanagement by Florida contributed to the oyster industry’s collapse and that Florida has not adequately shown that Georgia’s water use caused problems in the Franklin County bay and the Apalachicola River.”

Judge Kelly further argued that the collapse of the oyster industry in Apalachicola was primarily fueled by mismanagement after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and drought, not increased water use in Georgia. Audubon is disappointed by the decision, as oysters are an important economic and natural resource for Apalachicola Bay. Florida continues to work on understanding the reasons for the decline in oyster populations and to find ways to help the environment and the industry recover. This decision presents a major set-back in the state’s efforts.

The final decision will be made by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Click here to learn more.
Wood Stork.
Wood Stork. Photo: Sandra Rothenberg.
State of the Everglades Report
The Winter 2019 State of the Everglades Report is out! Learn about Roseate Spoonbill nesting and other results from the 2018 South Florida Wading Bird Report, find updates on Lake Okeechobee and the EAA Reservoir, and more! 

Click here to download an online copy.
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