Monday, July 06, 2015

Abysmal session of Florida legislature is over: what now? ... by gimleteye

It is impossible to put lipstick on this pig: the Florida legislative sessions is over, leaving in its wake the shattered hopes of millions of Floridians for fairness and equity in appropriations according to the voters' will.

The blame fits squarely on the backs of Gov. Rick Scott, his ultra-compliant Cabinet, and with Republican legislative leaders who saw no need to take into account what voters approved in 2014, by way of sharp instructions to avoid exactly the mess of the 2015 session.

In a "by-name-only" democracy wrecked by campaign finance practices, Florida leads the way in showing just how brazen big business interests have become in advancing their agendas.

The clearest example: the failure of the legislature to listen to what the public wanted by way of Amendment 1, the 2014 constitutional amendment passed by more than 75 percent of voters to allocate 1/3 of the documentary stamp tax to purchase of environmentally sensitive lands, like the option for lands offered to the state by US Sugar in the EAA.

What now?

Florida Democrats have to rally and offer credible candidates for public office and tap into the wellspring of voter resentment and anger. Short of revolution, the polls are the last resort. And what all voters should do is reject the current crop of Republican state legislative officials from Miami-Dade.

As for the rest of the state: voters should also join the revolution at the polls, starting with the 2017 choice for president of the Florida Senate: Joe Negron.

Those responsible for such a bitter harvest as this session of the legislature provided should return to private life.

Click 'read more' for two recent opinion pieces from up the Treasure coast, agreeing with our view from Miami.

Legislature's failure to fund St. Lucie River Issues Team projects is setback for Treasure Coast
Editorial Board
Treasure Coast Palm

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk about disrespect for Treasure Coast waterways.

The 2015 Legislature all but thumbed its nose at local water projects in the fiscal budget approved by lawmakers during the recent special session.

The abysmal effort constitutes a major setback for our region. And it begs a question: Where is the legislative leadership needed to fix our ailing waterways?

The final tally is deplorable. One omission in particular — funding for the St. Lucie River Issues Team — is like a punch to the gut to those seeking to restore the river and Indian River Lagoon.

Treasure Coast governments requested more than $16 million in water projects this year. They received only $1.75 million.

The “winner,” if there is one, is Martin County, which got the lion’s share of the $1.75 million appropriation for our region. This includes $1.5 million to install sewer lines in North River Shores and $150,000 to treat toxic stormwater at Ocean Breeze Park.

The “loser” is St. Lucie County, which requested $5.6 million in water projects — and got nothing.

For the record, Indian River County received a paltry appropriation of $50,000 for oyster beds in the lagoon.

The most noteworthy omission in the state budget may well be the Legislature’s decision not to fund projects prioritized by the St. Lucie River Issues Team, a group of scientists and environmentalists that study and recommend projects to restore the estuary.

The Issues Team has been funded every year since its inception in 1999 — to the tune of $63 million. Its accomplishments include the restoration of more than 4,671 acres of habitat and 4,358 acres of wetlands, according to the South Florida Water Management District.

But there will be no funding this year.

The impact will be significant, given the fact the goal of the Issues Team is “to accelerate and implement ‘ready-to-go’ projects that provide immediate results toward improving water quality and ecosystem functions” in the estuary and lagoon, according to the district.

Despite our region’s critical water needs, House and Senate leaders went on a last-minute spending spree and earmarked some $300 million for legislators’ pet projects, including $2 million for the for-profit IMG Academy in Bradenton.

Florida taxpayers should be outraged.

Treasure Coast residents should be incensed that lawmakers curried favor with select supporters at the expense of our waterways.

The water projects proposed for state funding by local governments are not “turkey” projects; instead, they are projects critical to the restoration and health of our river and lagoon.

Our region deserved better.

Eve Samples: Joe Negron is optimistic. This is why.
Eve Samples
3:09 AM, Jul 5, 2015

What now?

The state Legislature shirked its responsibility on Amendment 1 money.

The U.S. Sugar land deal is dead.

To understand the scope of the environmental letdown we just witnessed in Tallahassee, consider these numbers:

About $82 million was tagged in the upcoming state budget for the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

Last year, the figure was $232 million.

Still, Gov. Rick Scott was brazen enough to make this statement at a June 2 business summit for presidential candidates: “If you care about the environment, we’ve got record funding.”

Tell that to disappointed supporters of the Indian River Lagoon, the 156-mile-long estuary that has been imperiled by decades of freshwater discharges from Lake O and other sources of pollution.

Where do we go from here?

State Sen. Joe Negron told me last week he intends to revive his call for buying more land for water storage south of Lake O. Considering he is leading the race to become the next Senate president, there’s reason to believe he might succeed.

Negron is undeterred by the South Florida Water Management District’s shortsighted decision to kill the option to buy 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar’s land. He wants to look for more land. He plans to renew his call to bond Amendment 1 proceeds to make available about $500 million for that cause.

If Negron secures the two-year post as Senate president in 2017-18, as he expects to in December, he could be powerful enough to overcome resistance to bonding from many state leaders.

“Bonding is the right way to do things,” said Negron, R-Stuart, “because bonding is anticipated by the plain language of Amendment 1.”

Negron said he was encouraged the final day of the June special session, when current Senate President Andy Gardiner publicly mentioned the need for additional water storage south of Lake O. That’s critical to stopping the periodic and damaging discharges of lake water to our estuaries.

“Sometimes it takes longer to achieve a legislative goal than one would hope,” Negron told me, “but that doesn’t weaken my resolve.”

The goal of restoring the southern flow of water from Lake O has remained elusive for almost a century.

It will take more than resolve to achieve it. It will require willingness to rebuff some of the state’s most powerful players — including the sugar industry that owns much of the land.

Time will tell of Negron is willing to do that.

1 comment:

cyndi said...

The biggest mistake will be if Joe Negron becomes senate president. This is a man who has no compassion what so ever for anyone especially our most vulnerable people.
I'm glad north river shores is getting money for sewage but what a waste in the long run if we have discharges does it really matter.
Ocean Breeze is a trailer park originally owned by the Hoke Family and then they sold it to the people who lived there and that turned out to be a disaster. Carefree resorts bought it and they are getting rid of all the old trailers and replacing with nice new manufactured homes. It's a great location right on the lagoon. Only issue the stink is horrid. Interesting about the "toxic storm water." I've been asking for six years what that smell is and i was told it was nothing. Other people have told me there are various septic issues going on here. No one tells the same story but its interesting how this place could get nothing until a big corporation bought them. Never boring in our little county of 150 thousand people or so.