| Interim Committee week started off with a meeting of the Senate Agriculture Committee chaired by Jay Collins (R-Tampa). The committee outlined its priorities for this year with the goal of stabilizing, revitalizing, and growing agriculture in Florida, continuing to grow research and technology in partnership with UF/IFAS, and focusing on hurricane recovery. Members noted that since Hurricane Ian had affected our food crops as well as more than 60% of the state’s grazing land, a lot must be done to help the struggling industry in the State.|
The Senate Select Committee on Resiliency, chaired by Senator Albritton (R-Wauchula), met on Wednesday, January 4, 2023, and was provided an overview of disaster recovery work to date in Southwest Florida and other parts of the state that were hit by Hurricanes Nicole and Ian last year. Division of Emergency Management Executive Director Kevin Guthrie, with a view to improving recovery efforts, outlined constraints in the current system that were hampering the recovery process. Also on the agenda was a presentation by Wesley Brooks, the Chief Resiliency Officer, on the state’s resiliency programs.
The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) also had its first meeting this week. This committee has oversight of appropriations for a broad scope of programs and agencies including the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Florida Department of Management Services.
As noted earlier, Speaker Renner’s priority for this year is to improve the state’s environmental infrastructure. New to this session are three subcommittees that fall under the newly formed House Infrastructure Strategies Committee. The committee will be chaired by veteran House member Rep. Bobby Payne (R- Palatka) and will focus on developing sound policy to plan for Florida’s growth, including transportation while protecting our water, building flood resilience, prioritizing land acquisition, and infrastructure planning. The subcommittees include the Agriculture, Conservation & Resiliency Subcommittee, the Transportation & Modals Subcommittee, and the Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee.
All three committees met this week for the first time to introduce their members and to discuss their areas of focus. The Agriculture, Conservation and Resiliency Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Buchanan (R-Osprey) will focus on issues critical to Florida’s agriculture and citrus industries, conservation of natural resources, fish and wildlife issues, water quality and supply, and transportation services. The House Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Stevenson (R-St. Johns), will focus on developing strategic solutions for the future of our water supply and water quality and lastly, the House Select Committee on Hurricane Resiliency and Recovery chaired by Rep. Michael Grant (R- Port Charlotte) will prioritize making Florida a more resilient state. The state is facing more than $50 billion in damages from Hurricane Ian; Hurricane Nicole deepened the impacts, causing more than $50 million in damage in Volusia County, alone. Speaker Renner created this committee to review hurricane recovery efforts across the state and to make Florida a safer place in the face of intensifying storms.