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At the end of week three of Session 2020 we’ve seen a lot of activity. The House and Senate filed their preliminary budget proposals this week, and water and environmental priorities have fared quite well. Below is a recap of the important bills that moved through the legislature this week. Stay engaged in the process and we will be reaching out to you when we need your voice!
Audubon Florida
Audubon Advocate | Your Policy Update
American White Pelican. Photo: Georgia Wilson / Great Backyard Bird Count.
American White Pelican. Photo: Georgia Wilson / Great Backyard Bird Count.
Water
SB 1382, Environmental Resource Management, sponsored by Senator Albritton (R- Bartow), unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on Monday.

On Wednesday, the House companion bill HB 1363, Basin Management Action Plans, sponsored by Representative Overdorf, unanimously passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee.

The focus of both these bills is the implementation and improvement of Best Management Practices (BMP) in the agricultural and non-agricultural non-point source arena. Non-point source pollution is one of the largest sources of nutrients that impair our waterbodies. The development of more modern and technologically sound BMPs will improve nitrogen and phosphorus removal, allowing cleaner water to flow into our rivers and estuaries. Audubon continues to work with the sponsors to make improvements to the bill - especially to reduce the time allotted for BMP enrollment after the adoption of a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP). The time for action is now: BMP implementation is simply good stewardship of our resources.


HB 1343 (House companion to SB 712 by Senator Mayfield), Water Quality Improvements, sponsored by Representative Payne (R-Palatka) and Representative Ingoglia (R- Spring Hill), had its first hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee. 

A comprehensive water quality bill, it requires the transfer of the septic tank permitting and inspection program from the Department of Health to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). HB 1343 requires DEP to update its stormwater permitting rules, imposes new requirements on wastewater, septic tanks, and agriculture, and adds new requirements for BMAPs; the state’s water quality restoration plan. The bill requires legislative ratification if biosolids rules are adopted by DEP. There are many provisions in this bill that will improve water quality in our springs and estuaries. Audubon is working closely with the bill sponsor to address a few concerns. The bill received an unanimous vote in committee on Wednesday.


SB 1450, Environmental Enforcement, sponsored by Senator Gruters (R-Sarasota), was heard in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Monday. The house companion bill HB 1091 filed by Representative Fine (R-Palm Bay), hasn’t had a hearing yet. This bill increases the civil penalties for several pollutant discharge violations. Governor DeSantis, as part of his legislative initiative last September, called for a 50 percent increase in fines for environmental violations. This bill requires changes to both the amount and the duration of penalties for violating the State’s environmental laws.
Anhinga. Photo: Georgia Wilson / Great Backyard Bird Count.
Anhinga. Photo: Georgia Wilson / Great Backyard Bird Count.
Everglades Protection
HB 775, sponsored by Representatives Avila (R-Miami Springs) and Aloupis (R-Miami), and SB 1390, sponsored by Senator Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs), were heard in committees this week. These bills provide an additional layer of safety for the Everglades Protection Area, and would require adherence to the state coordinated review process for comprehensive plans and plan amendments adopted by the governing bodies of local governments whose boundaries include any portion of the Everglades Protection Area.

SB 1390 passed the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Monday and HB 775 unanimously passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday.
American Kestrel. Photo: Carolyn McDonald/Audubon Photography Awards.
American Kestrel. Photo: Carolyn McDonald/Audubon Photography Awards.
Climate Adaptation
HB 1073, by Representative Stevenson (R- St John’s), and SB 7016, by Senator Lee (R- Brandon) and Senate Committee on Infrastructure and Security, would establish the statewide office of resiliency within the Executive Office of the Governor to be led by Florida’s Chief Resilience Officer.

HB 1073 also establishes the Statewide Sea-Level Rise Task Force. This task force would be responsible for recommending consensus projections of sea-level rise and the flooding impacts along Florida’s coastline. In addition to Audubon Florida and several conservation organizations, the City of St. Augustine and Palm Beach County publicly supported the passage of HB 1073.

HB 1073 passed the House Appropriations committee unanimously 29 -0. The next committee of reference is the House State Affairs Committee.
 
Black Skimmers. Photo: David Moynahan/Audubon Photography Awards
Black Skimmers. Photo: David Moynahan/Audubon Photography Awards
Appropriations
The House and the Senate released their budget proposals Tuesday and Wednesday of this week as they gear up to negotiate the State’s 2020-2021 fiscal year budget. Both the House and Senate exceeded the Governor’s request of $625 million for the environment. The House’s proposal includes $646.8 million for environmental projects, while the Senate’s proposal is $639 million, of which almost $480 million is in recurring funds. Here are some highlights:

The House proposal includes $318.6 million for Everglades restoration, compared to the Governor’s ask of $322 million. The proposal also includes:
- $20 million for Florida Forever
- $27 million for state parks
- $50 million for springs
- $40 million for alternative water supply
- $122 million for targeted water quality projects
- $50 million for beach restoration
- $6 million for the state’s Resilient Coastline Initiative
- $50 million for TMDLs


While Chair Raschein said that the Florida Forever funding numbers would likely increase and are subject to negotiation, it is disappointing to see the floor set so low for a program that provides multiple environmental benefits. Additionally, Florida’s four-time award winning parks were also significantly under-funded. As it is early in the budget, there is hope that allocations for state parks increase so staff have the resources they need to maintain and enhance these priceless resources that are enjoyed by wildlife and people alike.

The Senate’s proposal also sets aside:
- $322 million for Everglades restoration
- $50 million for springs
- $37 million for state park management
- $40 million for alternative water supply projects
- $10 million for Florida’s Resilient Coastline Initiative

$160 million for water quality improvements is allocated as follows:
-$50 million for Lake Okeechobee
- $25 million for septic to sewer projects
- $25 million for TMDL improvements
- $25 million for the Indian River Lagoon
- $10 million for coral reef protections

The Senate proposal includes $125 million for land acquisitions programs including $92 million to the Division of State Lands, $10 million for Florida Communities Trust, $8.7 million for Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, more than $12 million for Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program, and $2 million for Working Waterfronts. 

As part of his legislative vision for 2020 and based on the recommendation of the Blue Green Task Force, Governor DeSantis had indicated the need for agricultural BMP verification every two years. To assist with this additional workload,  Audubon is glad to see that the Senate budget proposal provides eight additional staff to DACS’ Office of Water Policy–and $1 million for verification and implementation of BMPs.
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