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Environment and natural resources conferees go light on details

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If you can read a spreadsheet, you might be able to figure out the offer the House made Friday morning on the agriculture, environment, and natural resources budget.

If you can’t — well, lead House conferee Ben Albritton wasn’t willing to explain it to you.

Albritton distributed a spreadsheet listing the House position, but declined to discuss it. Even when asked by Rep. Loranne Ausley.

Sen. Rob Bradley, chairing the hearing, conferred with Albritton — inaudibly, to the audience — then announced:

“We’re not going to do that publicly at this time. The document reflects the two sides. This is a public document.”

Bradley added: “At our next gathering, we can have a discussion about the remaining differences. But at this time, we’re not going to do that.”

Albritton did offer that the line items for specific House changes had been highlighted. They included agreement with the Senate on items including citrus greening research and sea turtle restoration.

Following the meeting, Albritton and Bradley exited through a rear door.

“I’ve been here before. This is not the way it’s been done in the past,” said Ausley, who returned to the Legislature last year following a hiatus.

“The speaker started this session saying this was going to be the most transparent session ever. This process, to me, is not transparent,” she said.

“I’ve been going to the other conference meetings, and they’ve been going line by line. Last night, we got a sheet, so I thought today we’d at least get more information. It’s helpful to the public to go through this as well,” she added.

“It remains to be determined whether supporting this is in the best interest of the people of Florida. I don’t know, because we don’t have enough information at this point,” Ausley continued.

“It’s clear that a lot of decisions have been made not in these rooms. It would be helpful to the public and to those of us who are ultimately going to make decisions to know what the background is, and what’s going on with all these things that are important.”

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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