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Senate committee passes bill restructuring public land acquisition and management

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A bill revamping the state’s process of public land acquisition and management passed its first Senate committee Tuesday.

LobbyTools reports that SB 1290, filed by Trilby Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson is nearly identical to House equivalent, HB 1075, filed by Lehigh Acres Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell.

Orlando Democratic Sen. Darren Soto submitted an amendment to strip language that would allow “an expansion of use of land acquisition dollars, Amendment 1 dollars, on water projects.”

Although opposing a similar bill last year, Eric Draper of Audubon Florida supports Soto’s amendment. The original language put forth by the Department of Environmental Protection “stands outside the original purpose for which the bill was introduced.”

DEP General Counsel Robert Williams told senators that using land acquisition money on water projects allows “[DEP] flexibility while we are looking at protecting springs, protecting other areas,” in addition to “other tools to our toolbox.”

LobbyTools also noted that Soto withdrew his amendment after receiving assurances the DEP is willing to work new language that would ensure a “nexus” between using land conservation funds for water projects and for actual land preservation.

Also raising concern was Stephanie Kunkel of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, who did not appreciate combining water project spending and changes to land management regulations to promote “recreation or conservation,” as opposed to “the purpose for which it was acquired.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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