Why SB 2080 Should Be Opposed

SB 2080

Posted by H20_1 on June 12, 2009 at 12:57 p.m.

Senate Bill-2080 is a travesty of the public trust.

Voters created the water districts and gave the governing boards the power to levy property taxes, but only with the knowledge that they would have a governing board with the authority to review withdrawal applications, and to participate in public hearings.

Sen. Baker has danced all over the page, claiming he didn’t know anything about the amendment and that Sen. Alexander told him he didn’t “know it was in there either.” He also asserts that the bill “makes a bad situation worse,” says he supports the boards, and wants to “fix” the problem he voted for next year.

Baker’s position is to take no position, as he evades responsibility and hard-headedly refuses to ask Gov. Crist for a veto – a position that a favors passage of the bill.  It’s double-talk.

The best that can be said, if you take Baker at his word, is that Sen. Baker wasn’t paying attention to the public interest, or, he was providing cover for his pal J.D. Alexander, or perhaps just not telling the truth.

The senate record clearly shows that Alexander introduced the bad amendment on the floor of the senate. Alexander now admits this is true and says Rep. Denise Grimsley,(R) Lake Placid, asked him to tack on the amendment, which had failed to be passed in the House.

This amendment, which abolishes public hearings, and grants complete authority for all water withdrawals (consumptive use permits) to one man, with no check-and-balance of the governing board, is a slap in the face to the American principles of fair and open government and the citizens of Florida.

SB-2080, as amended, is a bill created by and for developers – J. D. Alexander should know, because as a citrus grower, sod farmer, land baron and developer, planning to build a 125,000 person city south of Lake Placid, he’ll need lots of water – millions of gallons and Rep. Denise Grimsley (R) Lake Placid,who represents his new city’s district, brought him the amendment.

The appointed directors, the one man with the power to grant all withdrawal permits, must be confirmed by the senate. Imagine the pressure of having a powerful state senator, like J.D. Alexander, or his representative, strolling through the door with an application.

This arrangement is an open invitation to special interest lobbying, abuse, poor accountability and a corrupt process. As it is, citizens have a very limited opportunity to participate. If this bill is not stopped by the governor’s veto, any meaningful participation will be lost;   the citizens silenced, the governing boards without authority to review withdrawal applications or hold public hearings.

Please call Governor Crist’s office at 850-488-7146 and ask him to veto Senate Bill-2080.

A point of clarification that should be made within this otherwise accurate article.

 

 WMD Ex. Directors are not  appointed per se.  They are hired and fired by the Governing Boards of the WMDs. Once hired by a WMD Board their hiring is indeed a pro forma matter of having the Senate confirm the WMD Board decision.   
Ex. Dir. business is on behalf of his/her WMD Gov. Board. 
Following is an editorial opposing this bill which appeared in the TCPalm  on June 9, 2009.  The article in the original form appeared HERE.

Editorial: Crist should veto key bill that takes water decisions out of public view

Who should have the authority to approve permits allowing large development projects in the Sunshine State to use underground water?

The executive directors of Florida’s five water management districts or the members of each district’s governing board?

For years this power has been entrusted to board members, who review permit applications at their monthly meetings, solicit public input in an open forum and then decide to approve or deny the request.

This format ensures public participation in a very important process: determining who can use how much of one of Florida’s most precious resources — water.

Incredibly, the current authority of the governing boards to decide water-use permits — and the public’s opportunity to participate in the process — will be dramatically reduced if Gov. Charlie Crist signs Senate Bill 2080.

It is imperative Crist veto the measure.

In its original form, SB 2080 was a good piece of legislation, authorizing the Southwest Florida Water Management District to implement a water-restoration plan for a large swath of land in the district. However, an 11th-hour amendment was added in the House of Representatives that makes the bill, in the words of Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon of Florida, “a stinker.” Lee also called it “the worst bill of the session.”

The final form of SB 2080 requires “a water management district’s governing board to delegate to the executive director its authority to approve certain permits or grant variances or waivers of permitting requirements” and authorizes “the executive director to execute such delegated authority through designated staff members.”

If the bill becomes law, both governing board members and the public effectually would be removed from the water-permitting process.

Here’s the kicker: Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, one of the bill’s co-authors, didn’t even know the controversial amendment had been added to SB 2080.

“None of us on the Senate side even caught it,” Baker said. “I don’t like it.”

Neither do Audubon of Florida and several environmental groups, who’ve called on the governor to veto the bill.

Recently, Crist said he’s leaning toward a veto.

His “lean” needs to become a “full-scale tilt” in the direction of continued public vetting of water-use permits.

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