Senate springs bill “just ran out of time” in the House

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At the end of the day, they simply ran out of time.

A Senate bill to protect Florida springs and waterways just didn’t have enough support for a vote in the House, Rep. Steve Crisafulli told Bruce Ritchie of the Florida Current after the legislative session ended on Friday.

Although it passed the Senate 38-0 on Wednesday, SB 1576 died on Friday in House messages.

“It was a bill that kept working through the process,” Crisafulli told The Florida Current. “And quite honestly there was a lot of folks who didn’t see that as being the right approach for what is right for the future.”

Increasing nitrogen in the groundwater from a variety of sources helped springs green with algae, scientists say.

The bill would have required innovative sewage treatment, greater regulation of septic tanks in areas with polluted springs and tightened state laws to control over pumping of groundwater.

As filed on Feb. 28, the bill provided approximately $365 million annually for springs’ projects. However, lawmakers stripped the recurring funding on April 22, replacing it with one-time $30 million for 2014-15.

Even though business and industry groups said they supported clean water, they ultimately stuck with the state’s approach for springs cleanup plans. A lack of funding in April brought opposition from cities and counties concerned they would have to pick up the tab for cleanups, with the lack of state funding.

Crisafulli will continue his commitment to a broad approach for addressing Florida water issues s over the upcoming two years.

Next session’s House Speaker believes it is “not just the springs, not just the Everglades, not just the Indian River Lagoon but all water policy.”

“That is the interest I have. That is the approach I will be taking.”

Incoming Senate president Sen. Andy Gardiner said the Senate tried to attach springs legislation to HB 7171, a Department of Environmental Protection bill, but that also failed to reach a settlement.

“They (House members) didn’t really have anything that matched up (as far as legislation),” Gardiner told the Current.

Springs legislation next session could rest on Amendment 1, which provide almost $1 billion per year for wide-ranging environmental conservation and restoration projects.

If passed, the constitutional amendment will fund springs and other environmental projects, Gardiner said.

Next year, SB 1576 will be the foundation of new legislation, according to Sen. David Simmons, one of five Senate committee chairs backing the bill. Opposition to the bill arose only because of lack of funding.

“I’m pleased we got as far as we did particularly to pass unanimously in the Senate,” Simmons said. “And I have a commitment from the Senate president and speaker designate to make this a higher priority.”

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.