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Wednesday, 16 February 2022 21:34

Bad Water Bill Threatens Years Of Clean Water Progress

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The annual Florida Legislative Session is a 60-day window (Jan 11-March 11) where the Legislature is convened for the purpose of lawmaking. On February 4th, the Florida Senate filed Senate Bill 2508, a suspicious piece of legislation that poses a major threat to Everglades restoration and clean water progress. Most of the bill’s contents appear to be bad news for South Floridians, but our major concern is that it deprioritizes the EAA Reservoir and reduces measurable gains made in the public and transparent LOSOM process. Watch the video above for the full story and scroll down to learn more.

 

Click here for important video

 

 

FAQS ABOUT SENATE BILL 2508

Senate Bill 2508

 

What was suspicious about the bill? A wolf in sheep’s clothing

  • Sneak attack: The Senate Appropriations circumvented the legislative process by filing SB 2508 as a “budget conforming bill” which is basically a budget procedure, not meant for substantive policy legislation. This budget procedure, circumvents the legislative committee process and fast-tracks the bill to a vote on the Senate floor.
  • Minimal public involvement: As a conforming bill, there’s only one chance for public comment, not the usual 3-4 committee hearings where the bill would be heard. The Senate Appropriations Committee meeting was held on February 9th, three business days after the bill’s filing. The bill passed 16-4 and heads to it’s last stop on the Senate floor on February 17th.
  • SB 2508 is a procedural bill that was tied to proviso language in the general budget that conditions the passage of SB 2508 to Everglades Restoration money. Basically, if SB 2508 doesn’t pass, neither does the annual state funding for Everglades Restoration.

 

What are your specific concerns with the bill? More harmful discharges

Find a detailed outline of harmful provisions and line numbers here.

If implemented, SB 2508 will:

  • Prioritize water supply to sugar farms south of Lake Okeechobee over all other users
  • Result in more harmful Lake O discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers
  • Jeopardize funding and expedited construction of the EAA reservoir, the critical project needed to reduce damaging discharges and send more water to the Everglades

But I’ve heard it doesn’t remove funding from the EAA Reservoir. Is that accurate?

  • Not quite. Even if the amount of funding remains the same, SB 2508 adds three more projects as “priorities” which will deprioritize, dilute funding for, and further delay construction of the reservoir.
  • In this way, SB 2508 seeks to change existing law and contradicts Governor DeSantis’s plan for restoring Florida’s environment. Senate Bill 10, passed in 2017 in response to toxic algae blooms, authorized the EAA Reservoir (not the other projects) and Governor DeSantis made it his priority in Executive Order 19-12 (water policy reform).

 

What’s the status of the SB 2508? (as of Feb 16, 2022) The fight is far from over!

The bill has not passed into law. There is still a lengthy process ahead. In its first stop, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill 16-4, despite hours of passionate protest from fishing guides, business owners, and concerned stakeholders.

On February 17th, the bill will go to the floor for a full Senate vote. If the bill passes the Senate, it will become part of the budget negotiations between the Senate and the House, where both branches have to agree on a final budget to present to the Governor. In order to prevent the bill from passing and going to the Governor, the House would have to refuse to include it in the final budget conference report. Once the budget conference is complete, the finished product (the budget) will be voted on by both chambers and sent to the Governor.

 

Why did the Senate Appropriations Committee say you were misinformed?

SB 2508 is just one example of decades of similar political schemes intended to secure the interests of one powerful interest group—the industrial sugar industry, or “Big Sugar.”

For over 30 years, Big Sugar has employed the largest and most powerful lobbying force in Florida’s State Capitol, working daily to secure perfect growing conditions, a taxpayer-funded irrigation and flood control system, free water, lack of oversight on pollution, and federal subsidies to produce 1.5 million tons of refined sugar each year.

To protect and advance their political interests, Big Sugar has effectively navigated the political levers behind the curtains at both state and federal levels. They have successfully lobbied to identify and elect political candidates who understand the sugar industry’s political goals and priorities and they invest millions in political contributions to ensure their interests are prioritized—interests that are rarely aligned with the rest of South Florida.

In its very essence, SB 2508 benefits the sugar industry at the expense of all others. The treatment displayed by the Senate Committee to the constituents who showed up to oppose the bill—was intended to manipulate, confuse, and ultimately neutralize their resistance.

This resistance we face is largely the economy of the past. The intent is not to vilify the sugar industry, but they are desperate to keep their control on water management, preserving an antiquated system that benefits few at the expense of many. Rather than acknowledging their contributions to the problem and actively working toward solutions, they fight it completely against the good of today’s economy.

The bill passed committee, so why should we consider this a success?

This bill could have slipped through the legislative process unnoticed, but YOU stopped this from happening. SB 2508 has not passed into law. It was approved to proceed to the next step. However, the victory lies in the movement that has been ignited! A movement of unity, massive public engagement, and passionate opposition of this harmful bill. This is how we kill the bill. The more people who speak up against SB 2508, the more public pressure we create on lawmakers to do the right thing. Together, we have the power of the people. Stay loud!

 

How can we stop it and what can I do to help?

Sign our petition to voice your opposition to SB 2508 and share it far and wide. Stay loud on this issue all the way to the finish line on March 11th. Educate others; share our updates on social media or create your own. Join our newsletter to stay informed on progress and action opportunities. These lawmakers are feeling the heat. They don’t like the negative media attention or the fact that thousands of people are holding them accountable on social media. Don’t let up! These are our jobs, our economy and our water.

 

 

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