Rick Scott Signs Bills Pushing Global Trade Port, Transit Projects
Gov. Rick Scott, who has been a champion of building up Florida’s port system in anticipation of capturing the growth in maritime trade, held a ceremonial signing of two transportation-related bills while at Port Miami on Thursday.
“Well over 1 million Florida jobs rely on international business, and along with international investment it accounted for about one-sixth of Florida’s economy last year,” Scott stated in a release while attending the Breaking Down Barriers to International Trade Forum hosted by the World Trade Center Miami.
“We want the world to know that Florida is the ideal location to ship products to and from the entire Western Hemisphere.”
Senate Bill 1998 and House Bill 599:
-- Increases the statutory minimum for the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development program from $8 million to $15 million.
-- Creates the Strategic Port Investment Initiative with a minimum statutory amount of $35 million. This new program will be administered by the Florida Department of Transportation, in cooperation with Florida seaports.
-- Creates an expedited hearing process for environmental resource permits (dredged material).
-- Authorizes a new bondable revenue stream of $10 million, beginning July 1, for seaport projects in the FDOT “adopted work program.”
Groups such as the Sierra Club had lobbied for Scott to veto the bill due to the expedited dredging, claiming the $220 million state and county program to allow larger ships to gain access to Port Miami could destroy coral reefs, sea grasses and marine life.
A challenge to the dredging was dropped in April after Miami-Dade County agreed to direct $1.3 million to its Biscayne Bay Environmental Enhancement Trust Fund and make additional donations to the nonprofit groups Tropical Audubon Society and Biscayne Bay Waterkeepers for projects designed to protect and restore Biscayne Bay.
The Florida Ports Council released its own statement saying the bills contain critical ports funding and language creating an expedited hearing process for environmental resource permits.
“Florida’s leadership is committed to making sure that our state is prepared to capture some of the growing international trade market share,” Doug Wheeler, president of the Florida Ports Council, stated in a release.
“With Florida ports seeing more cargo and cruise passengers than ever, increased funding in seaport infrastructure is critical. We thank Governor Scott, the Florida Legislature and our partners at the Florida Department of Transportation for their focus on positioning Florida to become a significant global competitor.”