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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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Environmental groups criticize ‘hostility’ in Senate Amendment 1 spending proposal

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Environmental groups supporting Amendment 1 on Thursday criticized a Senate chairman’s spending proposal that provides $22 million for land acquisition. Amendment 1, approved by 75 percent of voters in November, provides an estimated $741.8 million in fiscal 2015-16 for water and land conservation programs. Sen. Alan Hays, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, on Thursday released a spending proposal that provides $20 million for Kissimmee River restoration land buying and $2 million for the Florida Forever land acquisition…

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Environmentalists: House budget plan ignores Amendment 1 intent

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A House subcommittee chairman’s proposal for environmental spending ignores the will of voters who supported Amendment 1, environmental groups said Tuesday. “Most of Florida was left out of this budget,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. He was responding to the 2015-16 environmental spending proposal issued Tuesday by Rep. Ben Albritton, chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. The proposal will be voted on by the full House Appropriations Committee. Amendment 1, approved by 75%…

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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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With environmental issues looming, Alan Hays won’t haggle over Amendment 1 spending

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With industry and environmental groups sparring over what qualifies for spending under Amendment 1, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees environmental spending says he won’t haggle over the issue. Amendment 1, the water and land conservation funding initiative approved by voters in November, will be a focus of the 2015 legislative session starting Tuesday. The initiative will provide an estimated $757 million toward eligible programs in fiscal year 2015-16. It’s just one issue in what is shaping up…

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