Bill to Reduce Fed Control Over Florida's Water Issues Passes House Committee
Around the State
A permitting bill sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, passed through the House Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee meeting Monday, moving the bill one step closer to reducing government control of wetlands, springs and stormwater protections in Florida.
The bill passed the committee 8-4.
The goal of HB 703 is to eliminate duplicate regulation. Hydrologists, engineers, wetlands specialists and others within the state claim state standards currently in place are more than enough to protect businesses, residents and the environment. But Patronis said it costs too much in time, money and frustration to add a local layer of regulation that often comes without scientific justification.
A companion bill in the Senate, SB 1464, sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, has been zipping its way through that chamber after Simpson filed it at the end of February.
The bills haven’t been met without opposition, however. Several groups, including Audubon Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida and Reef Relief, have made it clear they don’t support where Patronis’ bill is headed.
Progress Florida has even started an online petition in opposition to the bill.
“Please don’t leave the local decision-making out of the equation,” said Amy Datz of the Florida Climate Institute, speaking against the bill. “This legislation is bad ... for the health and well-being of our environment. We can’t depend on [the Department of Environmental Protection] to protect us.”
Also at issue in the bill is Section 6, which would provide for water use permits of up to 30 years for larger developments and up to 50 years for landowners who participate in water storage programs.
"We wouldn't want this to negatively impact the Everglades," said Audubon of Florida’s Mary Jane Young.
Patronis fully acknowledged his bill was a work in progress, noting several times during the meeting that there were still further revisions to be made. The bill has two more committee stops to make before it heads to the House floor.