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Rewind to 2013: Proposed House bill would allow adjacent landowners to acquire state land

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A proposed House committee bill being considered Thursday would require state park managers to allow “low-impact agriculture” on parks and allow adjacent landowners to acquire state land. The House State Affairs Committee, meeting at 1 p.m. today, will consider proposed committee bill SAC 15-02. In 2013, HB 33 by state Rep. Jimmie T. Smith, a Republican from Lecanto, also would have allowed an individual or corporate landowner to acquire state land by asking the Cabinet to approve a swap for…

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Senate water bill clears committee with environmentalists and industry groups concerned

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Counties, agriculture, industry groups and environmentalists all were raising concerns Tuesday as a Senate committee passed its first version of a water bill. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner have said passing water legislation is a top priority in the 2015 legislative session. The House bill, opposed by environmentalists, passed the chamber 106-9 on March 5. The Senate bill, SB 918, was amended Tuesday to include portions of the House bill, HB 7003, recognizing in state law…

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Rick Scott proclaims Panther Day, support for environment

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Gov. Rick Scott on Friday wanted you to know that he likes Florida panthers and likes the environment — to the tune of $3 billion for environmental spending requested in fiscal year 2015-16. With the House and Senate this week having delivered blows to the hopes of Amendment 1 land-buying supporters, Scott proclaimed Saturday to be Florida Panther Day. His office and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection also promoted his request of $150 million for land management and acquisition.…

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Debate on House water bill moves to Senate

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Environmental groups continued Wednesday to criticize a House water bill in advance of a Senate committee workshop while an industry group said the legislation offers a statewide approach to Florida’s water needs. HB 7003 recognizes the Central Florida Water Initiative in state law while eliminating a South Florida Water Management District farm permitting program for Lake Okeechobee in favor of agricultural “best management practices.” It requires the setting of minimum flows for springs simultaneously with setting recovery goals, which environmentalists…

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House water bill passes as critics hope for better Senate legislation

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House Republican leaders praised a water policy bill that they passed on Thursday as a good start while the chamber’s Democratic leader called it bad legislation and joined environmentalists in hoping for better legislation from the Senate. HB 7003 passed the House 106-9 on the third day of the legislative session after about 45 minutes of debate. Nearly 30 Democrats joined House Republicans in voting for the legislation. “This is a good bill,” state Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres and…

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House water bill faces questions, teed up for floor vote

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Democrats questioned a House water policy bill on the floor Wednesday while environmentalists said they are turning their hopes to the Senate for a stronger bill. Supporters say HB 7003 provides a statewide approach to dealing with water issues while modernizing the water regulatory system. But environmentalists say it weakens Lake Okeechobee protections while failing to set deadlines for cleaning up springs and restoring flows. Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres and chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, was questioned…

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UF study says more water storage needed south of Lake Okeechobee

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Environmental groups pushing for the state purchase of U.S. Sugar Corp. land south of Lake Okeechobee may have received a boost Monday when a University of Florida study said additional land is needed for water storage. Environmental groups have been pushing the state to exercise an option to buy 46,800 acres for water storage to prevent polluted water in Lake Okeechobee from being discharged to the sensitive estuaries of St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. But Gov. Rick Scott didn’t include…

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