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Everglades bill: 'One of Heaviest Lifts this Session' Passes Senate Committee

The Everglades Improvement and Management bill passed its sponsor's committee Tuesday.

SB 768, sponsored by freshman Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, puts into statute a deal struck by Gov. Rick Scott and the Obama administration about how to move forward with the last phase of restoration. Simpson said it is a result of the two sides "putting politics aside" and that it has been celebrated by environmentalists, agriculture and policymakers.

The billoutlines funding sources and timelines for construction of the final suite of projects for Everglades restoration. Sources include a state appropriation and a tax increase on Everglades Agricultural Area farmers through the Agricultural Privilege Tax they pay. Farmers will also be required to continue their Best Management Practices, which have reduced phosphorus in the water by 55 percent.

Representatives of the South Florida Water Management District, Everglades Foundation, Audubon Florida and Associated Industries of Florida declared their support of the bill at the meeting.

Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, congratulated Simpson for pushing through "one of the heaviest lifts this session," especially in his first year in the Legislature.

The measure quickly passed the Community Affairs Committee.

The companion bill, HB 7065, sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, unanimously passed the full House in March.

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