Tallahassee decision makers have followed their own narrow opinions and cut out the funds allocated by Amendment 1, thus ignoring the will of the Florida voters. Nathan Crabbe tells the sad story in the Gainesville Sun. Go here for the original story, or continue with this post to see his editorial.
Editorial: Empty promises
Published: Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 15, 2015 at 8:04 p.m.
When it comes to water, the Florida Legislature just cannot or will not act, and certainly will not act with any sense of vision, let alone urgency.
Even the voters’ overwhelming mandate on the distinctly named Water and Land Conservation Amendment, or Amendment 1, could not move our lawmakers to do not only the people’s will but what is undeniably in the state’s best interest.
As lawmakers wind down their special session to complete work they were unable to do during the regular session, it is clear that once again — for the second year in a row — the high-minded rhetoric we heard from legislative leaders about water policy reform and protections were nothing more than empty words and promises.
“Expectations, quite frankly, should be pretty low when it comes to water projects,” House Agriculture and Natural Resources Chairman Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, told the News Service of Florida last week.
There you have it. We should have “low expectations” when it comes to the water projects that reduce pollution to our springs, rivers and lakes. These are the projects that are essential to ending the ever-increasing greening of waterways across Florida from too many nitrates. Those are the projects all parts of Florida are depending on to stop the draining of our aquifer.
The estimated $750 million that is supposed to be earmarked for Amendment 1, that is, water and land conservation, will largely not be dedicated to that purpose this year. No, lawmakers, led by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, adopted their own interpretation of Amendment 1 and siphoned off some $200 million to fund existing agency operating expenses, salaries and such.
Lawmakers agreed Sunday to spend a comparatively paltry $55 million to acquire environmentally significant land — the lion’s share of which would go to improvements to the Kissimmee River.
Just $17.4 million would go toward the state’s Florida Forever land acquisition program, the News Service of Florida reported. The program had been allocated $300 million for that purpose before the cuts that prompted voters to pass Amendment 1.
One of the few bright spots was that $47.5 million in funding was directed toward springs restoration.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, had promised Floridians broader water policy would be a priority this year. And what happened? On the third day of the regular session, the House passed a 94-page water bill that underwent a total of one committee hearing and was not even vetted by the Department of Environmental Protection. But rest assured, the varied business and agriculture special interests all had their say, effectively gutting what started out as promising legislation.
Florida is in a water crisis. Our aquifer is polluted and being drained. Our waterways and coastlines are being tainted by nitrates and stormwater runoff.
And what do we get from our lawmakers and governor? Empty words and promises.