Grades Are In: Sierra Club Florida Releases 2021 Florida Legislator Scorecard
Sierra Club Florida has released its 2021 Florida Legislator Scorecard. The organization considers a wider range of bills than most environmental organizations and accordingly, evaluates a suite of both environmental and “democracy” bills that were voted on during the 2021 session.
A full list of how each Florida Senator and Representative voted on each of these bills is available here. Also included in the scorecard are the eight House Champions who voted 100% of the time in alignment with Sierra Club Florida’s endorsements and the worst three Representatives and one Senator who were particularly egregious with their votes last session.
As Sierra Club Florida points out, the Florida Legislature is merely passing sea level adaptation bills rather than ones that address the root causes of rising sea levels. But perhaps what’s most alarming here is the overall thrust of the House, Senate, and Governor’s office towards preempting any county or municipality laws, ordinances, and regulations that offer local, democratic solutions to various environmental issues. Democracy in Florida, it appears, will be solely determined by who controls the state government in Tallahassee.
Comments by OSFR board member David Vaina.
SIERRA CLUB RELEASES 2021 LEGISLATOR SCORECARD
TALLAHASSEE, FL.– Today Sierra Club Florida released its Florida Legislator Scorecard for 2021. Designed to give a snapshot of legislators’ votes on priority bills for which Sierra Club Florida dedicated considerable time and resources, it also includes “thumbs up and thumbs down” award winners noting those legislators who either championed or actively worked against the environment and democracy.
Republicans almost unanimously voted against Sierra Club’s priorities by:
- Egregiously attacking voter participation and first amendment rights via the Florida Voter Suppression Bill (SB 90) and the Anti-Public Protest bill (HB 1);
- Continuing their assault on the citizen initiative process (SB 1890) by hamstringing efforts to gather a huge number of petitions without being able to raise adequate money to pay workers to collect them;
- Prohibiting mandatory beneficial electrification requirements by hamstringing local governments’ ability to implement and achieve clean energy transition targets (HB 919) and prohibiting gas station bans thus making the transition to electric vehicles more difficult (HB 839);
- Greenwashing methane-rich bio-gas by rebranding it as a “renewable energy” so that corporate utilities can build out natural gas infrastructure while making even more money from ratepayers through cost recovery (SB 896);
- Removing local input and control over industrial solar power plant siting by allowing placement of these potentially massive power plants on any land classified as “agriculture” (SB 896);
- Inserting subsurface rights and mineral estates into the definition of “real property” which gives an oil or gas developer a legal wedge to force a locality or DEP to refrain from actions that would “inordinately burden” the property by preventing fracking or other oil or gas exploration and production; and
- Continuing to use preemption as a way to invalidate local regulations seeking to protect the environment (SB 1194)
Legislators from both chambers and parties hid behind the need to “protect farmers” by approving unprecedented protections for “farm operations” against any party who may be injured by them and seeks justice through the courts. This potentially guts the class action suit (and any future action) against Big Sugar for injury to western Palm Beach County residents caused by smoke and ash from the outdated, toxic and inherently racist practice of pre-harvest sugar field burning (SB 88).
“We are concerned that the public buys in to the majority party’s rhetoric about their so-called environmental achievements,” said Deborah Foote, Acting Chapter Director, “we now have state-recognized Springs Protection Awareness Month and Oceans Day, yet the legislature failed to pass even one recommendation from Governor DeSantis’s own Blue Green Algae Task Force, the entity created to work on harmful algal bloom crisis.”
“Passing a trio of bills aimed at funding some aspects of sea level rise adaptation fails to address the causes of sea level rise or protect those most vulnerable to its impacts. There aren’t enough taxpayer dollars to hurricane-proof Florida. We cannot adapt our way out of climate change. We must mitigate the causes by reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses,” said Cris Costello, Senior Organizing Manager.
The Scorecard applauds eight Representatives who sided with the Sierra Club’s positions 100% of the time: Ben Diamond, Fentrice Driskell, Anna Eskamani, Joy Goff-Marcil, Omari Hardy, Dotie Joseph, Angie Nixon, and Carlos Guillermo Smith.
It condemns a number of Republican legislators for their actions including:
- Sen. Travis Hutson for sponsoring multiple pieces of anti-clean energy legislation which are being passed around in conservative playbooks across the country.
- Rep. Bobby Payne’s statement that questions the impact of humans on climate change.
- Rep. Randy Fine for his reasoning for the actions of the legislature: “because we can.”
- Rep. Spencer Roach, who represents Fort Myers, and his never-ending intrusion into issues affecting Key West.
A chapter of the national Sierra Club, Sierra Club Florida is made up of volunteer leaders and civic activists representing over 240,000 members and supporters from all over the state.
Posted by Deborah Foote, Government Affairs & Political Director at 12:32 PM