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‘Year of water’ failed along with environmental bills, but some did pass

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Another legislative session dubbed the “year of water” failed to deliver in 2015 as the House went home early over a healthcare spending dispute with the Senate. HB 7003, a water bill that was a legislative priority of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, passed the House by a 106-9 vote on the second day of session. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and industry groups supported the bill, which would have set milestones and timetables for cleaning up springs and other waterways. The Senate…

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Everglades Trust delivers petitions urging governor to buy U.S. Sugar land

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A small clutch of activists gathered on a foggy Tuesday morning to deliver petitions to Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders. Executive Director of Audubon Florida Eric Draper was handed a bottle of water infused with a blue-green algae bloom beforehand, FedExed straight from central Florida the afternoon before. The green, murky water came from Lake Okeechobee and is the product of too much agricultural runoff polluting the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, Draper told assembled reporters on behalf of the…

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House water bill language finds a new home as session winds down

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Language from a comprehensive House water bill was added on Thursday to other environmental legislation in the House over objections from Democrats. But the water bill language lacks key components of the Senate bill that is important to that chamber’s leadership, raising questions about whether the move represents gamesmanship between the two chambers. And some environmentalists say they’d prefer to see the bills die, effectively ending what some observers predicted would be the “year of water” in the Legislature. HB…

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House speaker says water bills closer, advisory council could be sticking point

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House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said Wednesday that the Senate is getting closer to the House on a comprehensive water bill but some differences remain. SB 918 was rewritten in a committee on Wednesday in response to requests by business groups and environmentalists, both of whom had raised concerns. Both sides still have issues, with environmentalists still more critical of the Senate and House bills than business groups. The Senate bill would establish springs protection zones, provide consistency in pollution regulations dealing…

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Amended state lands bill passes committee, heads to House floor

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A bill that would allow the Cabinet to give away state land passed its only committee stop on Tuesday with changes requested by environmental groups. HB 7135 would establish “low impact agriculture” as a management goal for state lands. The bill also would allow the Cabinet to give away state parks and other state lands to adjacent landowners under an agreement to conserve both properties. State Rep. Matt Caldwell, a Republican from Fort Myers, said the bill would allow the…

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Audubon’s Eric Draper says Legislature ‘out of sync’ with voters

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Eric Draper of Audubon Florida told a television audience during a weekend broadcast that legislators are showing they are “out of sync” with voters who supported Amendment 1. Seventy-five percent of voters in November approved the funding initiative, which provides an estimated $742 million for water and land conservation in the 2015-16 state budget. Environmental groups say the House and Senate have ignored the intent of voters in their spending plans. The House approved perhaps $10 million for land acquisition…

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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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