| Audubon Works with Elected Officials on Bills in the Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government
- SB 7040, sponsored by Sen. Harrell (R-Stuart), passed the committee (Chair, Sen. Brodeur (R-Sanford)) this week. This bill and its House companion, HB 7053, ratify the Department of Environmental Protection’s stormwater rule updates that were required by SB 712, the Clean Waterways Act (2020).
Late-filed amendments included provisions to grandfather development and rezoning projects submitted to the local government. This loosely written amendment has the potential to include thousands of projects across the state that are in their early planning stages. It’s important to remember that the underlying bill already had concessions with respect to grandfathering all of the existing conceptual permits and all completed permits that will be submitted to the state at the time the rule goes into effect. These concessions were included so as not to unduly burden the regulated community.
Audubon opposed this latest amendment and is committed to finding a balance between protecting our waters while recognizing investments made to date by the development community.
- SB 1084, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Agency bill by Sen. Collins (R-Tampa), would preempt the state, regulating electric vehicle charging stations. This would include design elements, such as how many parking lot spaces can be taken up with chargers. Under these provisions, local governments would be precluded from deviating from state design rules for the stations. Additionally, developers building these stations would be bound by the cap set by FDACS. Planning decisions such as this one are best left to local governments that know their needs.
- Audubon was glad to see that a late-filed amendment removed the addition of the provisions of SB 1620, also sponsored by Sen. Collins, that would allow the Department of Environmental Protection to surplus state-owned conservation land (within the Florida Wildlife Corridor) without development rights for agricultural use and dedicate the proceeds to FDACS to purchase development rights on other agricultural properties through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. It would also have empowered the state board that oversees the Florida Forever program, the Acquisition and Restoration Council, to review any land within the Florida Wildlife Corridor sold by a local government entity to ensure it does not include development rights. And it would bar water management districts from including development rights on any surplus lands they sell.
Florida Forever funds are used to purchase public lands in the form of parks, trails, aquatic preserves, forests, wildlife management areas, and more, all of which are held in trust for the residents of Florida. Selling these lands without development rights will eliminate public access to once public lands. The Florida Forever program also administers a robust easement program in addition to full fee acquisitions. The provision shifting easement purchases from Florida Forever to the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program appeared arbitrary.
- Disappointingly, SB 1210, Estero Bay, sponsored by Sen. Martin (R-Ft. Myers), was on the agenda and also passed favorably through this committee. This bill revises the boundaries of the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve presumably to open it to development. Read more about it here.
The good news is that its House companion, HB 057 by Rep. Botana (R-Bonita Springs), did not get on the agenda for its first committee of reference, which will not meet again this legislative session.