With the passage of updated state ethics laws, Florida’s five water management districts have entered a new era of transparency.
Beginning July 1, lobbyist regulations now apply to all of the state’s independent special districts – the limited-purpose governments that acquire and spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Water management districts expect to spend up to $1 billion this year combined, with approximately half from property tax revenues.
Since Gov. Rick Scott signed SB 846 into law last month, 27 lobbyists have registered at the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD).
In the proposed 2014-2015 fiscal year, SWFWMD expects an operating budget of nearly $180 million, to manage water resources for roughly 10,000 square miles over 16 counties, serving 4.7 million people.
Previously, water management districts were the only state agencies not requiring lobbyists to register. Those having business with state employees in the Legislative and Executive branches were already obliged to register.
SB 846 changed that. Lobbyists must now register annually and identify the entities hiring them.
Upon Scott signing the law, the non-profit watchdogs at Integrity Florida applauded the first steps towards more openness in government.
“It’s encouraging that for the second year in a row, the governor and legislature have advanced anti-corruption measures aimed at improving public trust in government,” Integrity Florida executive director Dan Krassner.
Registered lobbyists include former SWFMD Legislative Affairs Director Diane Salz, as well as officials for environmental groups such as Audubon Florida and 1000 Friends of Florida, The Mosaic Compnay, AquaFiber Technologies Corporation, Tampa Bay Water and Caulkins Citrus Company. Lobbyists for Charlotte County and the cities of Winter Haven and Punta Gorda are also on the list.
1000 Friends of Florida
- Charles Pattison — Executive Director
- Eric Draper – Executive Director and veteran conservation advocate
- Jane Graham
- Marianne Korosy
- Charles Lee
- Ann Paul
- Mark Rachal
- Mary Jean Yon
AquaFiber Technologies Corporation
- Kirby Benjamin Green — President
- Duane DeFreese – Coastal conservation expert, known as “a champion of common-sense conservation in Florida.”
- Ronald Edwards
- William Wallace Fagan
Caulkins Citrus Company
- Christian Caballero – Public affairs director with Foley & Lardner law firm, specializing in business law, health law, litigation, intellectual property, regulatory affairs, and taxation.
- Edward de la Parte – managing partner of de la Parte & Gilbert and a specialist in land use and environmental law
- Janette Knowlton – County Attorney
- Kristin Melton – Attorney at de la Parte & Gilbert
- Kristin Morris
Tampa Bay Water
- Paula Ann Dye – Strategic Planning Manager
- Matt Blair – Corcoran & Johnston
Michael J. Stuart — President at Florida Fruit & Vegetable Assn.
- Kerry Kates — Director, Water & Natural Resources
City Of Punta Gorda
- Jamie Miller – Consultant, Battleground Group
- Jerald Scott Paul — Attorney
- Rob Shave
Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority/Withlacoochee Regional Water SupplyAuthority
- Diane Salz – former SWFMD Legislative Affairs Director
City of Winter Haven, Florida
- Thomas L. Singleton — Consultant, owner’s representative for water, energy, and environmental services, a former lobbyist for South Florida Water Management District
The Mosaic Company
- Eileen Stuart
Florida Farm Bureau Federation
- Benjamin Curtis Williams
In addition to registering annually and revealing principals the process includes a declaration from each principal authorizing the lobbyist’s actions on his or her behalf, identifies the client’s main business, and discloses any direct or indirect business relationship between the lobbyist and any water district officer or employee.
Editor’s note: This piece was inspired by the diligent work of Palm Beach Post reporters Christine Stapleton and Kavya Sukumar, who recently published a look at the lobbyists before the South Florida Water Management District.